The New England Patriots have to make a tough decision in the coming weeks, as 15 of their players will turn free agents. Among the notable names on the list are versatile running back Dion Lewis, wide receivers Matthew Slater and Danny Amendola, and cornerback Malcolm Butler. From the list, head coach Bill Belichick, and director for player personnel Nick Caserio will have to select the important pieces to fit into the projected $14 million in cap space that the Patriots will have in 2018. The Patriots’ lack of flexibility in salary cap space will force to part ways with some key players that helped them to their Super Bowl run last season.

Patriots to lose Lewis

According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, the Patriots could lose Lewis to free agency, as they could not afford his asking price. Howe reported that Lewis plans to test the free-agent market unless the Patriots offer him a three-year deal in the range of $15 million to $18 million, with guaranteed money of $10 million. Howe said the early vibe is that Lewis could play elsewhere if the Patriots don’t give in to his demand.

In his three years with the Patriots, Lewis has provided them with a dual-threat rusher who is capable of catching passes from Tom Brady. Last season, Lewis ran for a career-best 896 yards and six touchdowns and added 32 catches for 214 yards and three scores.

He also showed his versatility on special teams, scoring a touchdown on one kick return, padding his season output to 10 total touchdowns. If the Patriots can’t keep Lewis, they could look at Carlos Hyde and Darren Sproles as potential replacements, according to Howe.

Patriots could create cap space

The Patriots can create cap space by releasing tight ends Martellus Bennett and Dwayne Allen, defensive tackle Alan Branch, and linebacker David Harris.

If the Patriots make this move, they can create an additional $16.87 million in salary cap space, which they can use to keep key players from joining other teams. The Patriots must act quickly, as Bennett and Branch are scheduled to receive roster bonuses by March 14, amounting to $2 million and $1 million, respectively.

The Patriots could also cut linebacker Shea McClellin, running back Mike Gillislee and wide receiver Kenny Britt to create an additional $5.98 million in space.

Gillislee and Britt have the option to join the Patriots’ training camp where they could compete for spots. The Patriots’ total cap space could reach $39 million if they release safety Jordan Richards, defensive end Geneo Grissom, and wide receiver Bernard Reedy.