Two questions loomed large in our latest roster projection: 1.) How does the Cam Newton signing effect the Patriots roster plans? 2.) How will the shortened offseason effect undrafted free agents?
The Patriots have had an undrafted free agent make the final roster 16 seasons in a row. That streak could now be in jeopardy as there are no preseason games and offseason rosters have to be reduced from 90 to 80. The Patriots have already cut their roster down to 80 players.
On the bright side, the NFL increased practice squads to 16 players a team. According to Lindsay Jones of the Athletic, 6 of those slots can be assigned to players with an unlimited number of accrued seasons. Furthermore, each NFL team can protect 4 of those 16 players from signing with other teams on a weekly basis. So while a young player may not make the final roster, he can stick around on the practice squad.
As players enter the facilities and training camp begins we thought it would be a good time to update our Patriots 53-man roster projection. (Note: Roster Projection 1.0 can be found here.)
Making the Team: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham
Cut: Brian Hoyer, Brian Lewerke
Analysis: The Cam Newton signing is bound to impact the Patriots’ roster plans, starting with Brian Hoyer. Because the new rules allow up to six veterans on the practice squad, we feel more comfortable leaving Hoyer off the initial 53-man roster. If Hoyer is able to clear waivers and make it to the practice squad it would give the Patriots insurance at quarterback while also freeing up a roster spot. It’s a risky move but it’s the ideal situation for the Patriots.
Running Back (Including Fullback) (6)
Making the Team: James White, Sony Michel, Damien Harris, Rex Burkhead, Jakob Johnson, J.J. Taylor
Analysis: It seems J.J. Taylor has a great chance to stick around after Brandon Bolden decided to opt-out of the upcoming season. It’s possible Sony Michel starts the season on PUP but it remains up in the air. Taylor won’t get a ton of offensive snaps, but he offers a lot of value on special teams.
Wide Receiver (6)
Making the Team: Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Matthew Slater, Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, Damiere Byrd
Cut: Jeff Thomas, Quincy Adeboyejo, Devin Ross, Gunner Olszewski, Marqise Lee, Will Hastings
Analysis: In our first projection we had Jeff Thomas making the final roster, but Damiere Byrd earns the spot this time. It’s the Newton effect. Byrd has experience with Newton in Carolina and the shortened offseason may lead a more veteran approach at receiver for the Patriots. With that being said, it wouldn’t shock us to see Thomas make the final roster. In terms of pure talent, Thomas has more than most of the other wideouts.
Is it possible the Patriots keep a seventh wideout (six if you cound Slater as special teams)? Sure, but that means eliminating a roster spot from a different postion. Thomas’ roster hopes will come down to staying out of trouble and how well he picks up the playbook in training camp. Just like Taylor at running back, if Thomas doesn’t make the final roster we expect him to stick around on the practice squad. Some have suggested Jakobi Meyers may get cut, but we see him staying on the roster.
Tight End (3)
Making the Team: Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, Ryan Izzo
Cut: Rashod Berry, Jake Burt
Analysis: We continue to push for a roster move at tight end, but if the Patriots roll with this group we have Ryan Izzo joining the two rookies.
Offensive Line (9)
Making the Team: David Andrews, Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, Isaiah Wynn, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt, Korey Cunningham, Michael Onwenu , Justin Herron
Cut: Jermaine Eluemunor, Dustin Woodard
Analysis: With the news of Marcus Cannon opting out of the 2020 season, it’s very likely the Patriots make some roster moves on the offensive line. The Patriots have some very young and talented backup offensive linemen. Yodny Cajuste is most likely to take over for Cannon, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Patriots sign a veteran swing tackle. For now, we’re giving the ninth lineman spot to Justin Herron. Herron played tackle in college, we see him more as a guard, but after losing Cannon he’ll certainly get his shot. The offensive linemen group is one of the hardest to predict without seeing them on the field. Dustin Woodard and is a prime candidate to make the practice squad, thus allowing him time to develop.
Defensive Line (5)
Making the Team: Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Byron Cowart, Beau Allen, Deatrich Wise Jr.
Cut: Nick Thurman, Bill Murray, Nick Coe
Analysis: In our eyes, the defensive line is the weakest position group on the defense. By no means is the group bad, but there’s little to no depth. Signing a run-stuffing defensive linemen and trading Deatrich Wise to a team that better fits his 4-3 skillset would be ideal, but for now, we have him making the roster. Despite his decreasing playing time over the past three seasons, the lack of depth presents an opportunity for him to stick around. We like Bill Murray, but he may be better suited to spend his rookie season on the practice squad.
Making the Team: John Simon, Anfernee Jennings, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich
Cut: Tashawn Bower, Shilique Calhoun, Derek Rivers
Analysis: It’s a pretty straightforward look at the edge spot. The Patriots have dedicated a considerable amount of draft capital at the position the past few seasons. Because Josh Uche is a hybrid edge/ linebacker guy, it will be interesting were the Patriots play him in year one. If the Patriots see him more as a linebacker they could keep another edge guy, but he’ll likely play a mix of both spots. Shilique Calhoun has a chance to make the team but it’s going to be an uphill battle.
Making the Team: Cassh Maluia, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Brandon Copeland, De’Jon “Scoota” Harris
Cut: Terez Hall, Brandon King
Analysis: The undrafted streak lives on! With Hightower opting out of the 2020 season, the chance De’Jon “Scoota” Harris makes the final roster goes up. With that being said, the Patriots need to make a roster move at linebacker. Remember, the Patriots have a ton of positional versatility. Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Patrick Chung, and Adrian Phillips can all get snaps at linebacker. Brandon King is the odd man out after the Patriots signed some very talented special teamers this offseason.
Making the Team: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel
Cut: D’Angelo Ross, Myles Bryant
Analysis: There won’t be any surprise cuts here. D’Angelo Ross and Myles Bryant are both exciting young players, but the cornerback room is loaded with talent and depth. The best hope for Ross and Bryant is the practice squad.
Making the Team: Terrence Brooks, Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, Cody Davis
Analysis: With Patrick Chung cut, the choice to keep all five safeties on the roster was pretty easy. Adrian Phillips will play a huge role this season. Rookie, Kyle Dugger will also see a sizeable jump in playing time.
Special Teams (3)
Making the Team: P Jake Bailey, LS Joe Cardona, K Justin Rohrwasser
Analysis: As long as Justin Rohrwasser makes kicks, the Patriots won’t make any changes to this group.
Toughest Cuts: Jeff Thomas, Brandon King, Shilique Calhoun
As training camp progresses we will continue to update our roster predictions. Let us know if you agree or disagree in the comment section below!