FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As the New England Patriots transition to planning for the 2018 season, some important financial decisions await them. Here are six players who are under contract to the team for 2018 but whose salaries make it possible the club will move in a different direction:
TE Dwayne Allen: The No. 2 option behind Rob Gronkowski, he is scheduled to earn a base salary of $4.5 million in 2018 and also has $500,000 in per-game active roster bonuses that could up his total compensation to $5 million. Given his limited production as a pass-catcher (10 catches, 86 yards, TD), the likable Allen could be challenged to return to the team at those financial terms.
TE Martellus Bennett: The Patriots will have to decide whether to pay Bennett a $2 million roster bonus by the first day of the 2018 league year in March. If they do, it would activate the final two years of his contract. Bennett is scheduled to earn a base salary of $3.6 million in 2018, with $2.6 million in roster bonuses. He has hinted at retirement in the past, which could take the decision out of the team's hands.
DT Alan Branch: The Patriots must decide whether to pay a $1 million bonus on the first day of the 2018 league year, which would keep Branch under contract for the season at a $1.7 million base salary (he has several other bonuses that can further increase the value of the deal). With Branch slipping to No. 4 on the depth chart late in the 2017 season and into the playoffs, he could be in jeopardy of not having the bonus picked up.
RB Mike Gillislee: He hardly played in the second half of the 2017 season, as Dion Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead were ahead of him on the depth chart, but with Lewis and Burkhead scheduled for unrestricted free agency, it's possible a clearer path opens for Gillislee in the offensive backfield in 2018. Gillislee is due a base salary of $1.9 million and has the chance to earn an additional $500,000 in roster bonuses. That's less than the Patriots paid him in 2017 in a front-loaded contract, which might increase his odds of sticking around.
LB David Harris: The veteran who came over from the Jets had slipped out of the rotation down the homestretch and is due a base salary of $1.75 million in 2018, with the chance to earn an additional $500,000 in roster bonuses. While that doesn't fall into the big-money category, it's still a notable total for a backup who doesn't factor into the special-teams mix. That could make it a challenge for Harris to stick.
LB Shea McClellin: After spending the 2017 season on injured reserve (concussion), McClellin is scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.125 million, which is in question only because of health concerns. He tried to return to action in 2017 as a designated-to-return-off-IR player but could never get over the hump. That sparks questions about his future.