With the 2021 preseason officially over, the New England Patriots must now turn their focus towards the regular season. The first step in that process is determining the 53-man roster. New England must have their 53-man roster set on Tuesday, August 31st at 4 p.m. ET.
With that in mind, here’s my final Patriots 53-man roster projection.
NOTE: This article was released on August 28th and was updated on August 30th following the Patriots’ preseason finale.
New England Patriots 53-man roster projection
Making the Team: Cam Newton, Mac Jones
Cut: Brian Hoyer
PUP: Jarrett Stidham
Analysis: Even though I have Brian Hoyer missing the initial 53-man roster, I think it’s very likely he finds his way back onto the team. Hoyer can be retained via the practice squad or by simply being re-signed after New England places a player on the IR. New England needs extra depth at quarterback with the continuing COVID-19 concerns, and Hoyer brings that.
That said, I don’t have Hoyer making the initial roster because the Patriots need his roster spot for other players. For example, New England can use Hoyer’s roster spot for someone injured like N’Keal Harry, and then, after placing Harry on IR and making him eligible to return after three games, they can re-sign Hoyer.
Running Back (Including Fullback) (6)
Making the Team: Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, James White, J.J. Taylor, Brandon Bolden, Jakob Johnson
Analysis: Brandon Bolden is still a potential cut candidate, but with the trade of Sony Michel his roster chances improved greatly. Bolden is a great special teamer and he’s a strong locker room presence. Not to mention, Belichick is a huge fan of his game.
Meanwhile, J.J. Taylor, who was previously on the roster bubble, has solidified a spot on the team with a strong preseason. Pairing Taylor and Bolden with Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, and James White makes for one of the best running back rooms in the NFL.
At fullback, Jakob Johnson isn’t a roster lock, but he should make the team. His ability to fill in at tight end gives him added value.
Wide Receiver (5)
Making the Team: Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Gunner Olszewski, N’Keal Harry*
Cut: Kristian Wilkerson, Tre Nixon, Isaiah Zuber
IR: Marvin Hall
Analysis: The big question at the wide receiver position is the future of N’Keal Harry. Harry will reportedly miss Week 1 of the regular season, but shortly thereafter he’s expected to be back healthy.
There’s been a lot of trade speculation surrounding Harry this offseason, however, his recent injury makes moving him much more complicated. It’s possible New England could release Harry, but moving off a 2019 first-round pick for nothing in return doesn’t sound like good business.
The most likely scenario seems to be Harry making the initial 53-man roster, being placed on IR, and then working to get healthy. As previously mentioned, Harry would be eligible to return after three games, and in the meantime, his roster spot could be used for someone else.
The rest of the wide receiver group seems fairly well set. That said, Kristian Wilkerson has an argument to make the team. He’s flashed potential at various moments this offseason. Unfortunately, his issues with drops may have doomed his roster hopes.
Tight End (3)
Making the Team: Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Devin Asiasi
Cut: Matt LaCosse
IR: Dalton Keene, Troy Fumagalli
Analysis: Matt LaCosse would be a useful depth piece to have at tight end, but there are just not enough roster spots to go around.
New England has a high-level tight end group with Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, and Devis Asiasi, but they must stay healthy.
Offensive Line (8)
Making the Team: Michael Onwenu, Isaiah Wynn, Trent Brown, Shaq Mason, David Andrews, Ted Karras, Justin Herron, Yodny Cajuste
Cut: James Ferentz, Korey Cunningham, Will Sherman, Alex Redmond
IR: Marcus Martin
Analysis: In my first projection, I had James Ferentz making the 53-man roster, but this time Yodny Cajuste takes his place.
Cajuste had a strong performance in the second preseason game against the Philadelphia Eagles and he reportedly continued his positive momentum into practice the following week. He gives the Patriots additional depth at the tackle position, which is important considering the injury histories of starters Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown. Cajuste and Justin Herron would be used as backup swing tackles, while Ted Karras would backup the three interior positions.
Ideally, Ferentz would be able to slide onto the Patriots’ practice squad. Ferentz had a good preseason at the center position.
Defensive Line (6)
Making the Team: Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise Jr., Henry Anderson, Carl Davis
Cut: Akeem Spence, Nick Thurman, Bill Murray, Montravius Adams
PUP: Byron Cowart
Analysis: Just like my last roster projection, I have the Patriots keeping six interior defensive linemen. Carl Davis is on the roster bubble, but he’s had an impressive preseason. So impressive, that it’s hard to see him being cut.
Henry Anderson is someone that hasn’t performed all that well this offseason, but yet he’s close to being a roster lock. Why? Simple, he’s owed quite a bit of guaranteed money, which would result in a dead cap hit if he were to be released. If not for that guaranteed money, Anderson is someone I would have thought about cutting to free up an extra roster spot.
With good starters, like Lawrence Guy and Davon Godchaux, and solid depth, New England’s interior defensive line will be much improved from a season ago.
Making the Team: Matthew Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Chase Winovich, Ronnie Perkins, Josh Uche
Cut: Tashawn Bower
Analysis: You could make an argument for trading Chase Winovich due to the immense depth at edge, but I prefer keeping him on the final roster instead. Winovich has been a productive player through his first two years in the NFL. He offers massive pass-rush potential. It will be interesting to see if Belichick sees it the same way.
Just like the interior defensive line, the 2021 edge group is going to be much better than what New England featured at the position in 2020.
Making the Team: Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Harvey Langi
Projected IR: Anfernee Jennings
PUP: Terez Hall
NFI: Cameron McGrone
IR: Raekwon McMillan
Analysis: Anfernee Jennings hasn’t yet played in a 2021 preseason game which makes him a perfect IR stash candidate. Jennings can then use this season to get healthy and improve his game.
If Jennings were to go on the IR, Harvey Langi would have a solid shot to make the team. Langi can prove linebacker depth, but most importantly he can play a significant special team’s role. Regardless of what happens on cut-down day, Langi played well enough this preseason to earn himself a roster spot somewhere else, if not in New England.
It’s important to note that while only three off-ball linebackers are listed, Kyle Van Noy, Josh Uche, Adrian Phillips, and Kyle Dugger can all play an off-ball linebacker role if needed.
Making the Team: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills, Shaun Wade
Trade piece/Cut: Joejuan Williams
Cut: Michael Jackson Sr., Dee Virgin, D’Angelo Ross
Analysis: It’s hard to predict what will happen at corner until we get more clarity on the Stephon Gilmore situation. Gilmore is currently on the PUP list, and it’s unknown when he’ll be back practicing.
If Gilmore stays on the PUP to start the season expect Joejuan Williams to stay on the roster. However, if Gilmore returns for Week 1 of the regular season, New England may look to move on from Williams. Williams has had his fair share of struggles this offseason, but he was always presumed to be on the final roster due to the lack of depth at corner.
However, after acquiring Shaun Wade in a trade with the Baltimore Ravens, New England now has another option at the position. Williams could be a trade candidate if New England doesn’t think they could slide him through waivers and get him on the practice squad.
Newly acquired Wade has experience as a successful slot corner and the length to play boundary corner. Wade would provide depth at both spots, and maybe even at safety. He wouldn’t be asked to play right away, thus allowing him to develop and learn the defense. In his Patriots’ debut against the New York Giants, Wade had a very good game.
Making the Team: Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Myles Bryant, Adrian Phillips
Cut: Adrian Colbert
NFI: Joshuah Bledsoe
Analysis: The roster projection at the safety position stays the same. Adrian Colbert is a productive player, but unfortunately, he’s a victim of the numbers game. New England has three very good safeties and a promising young prospect in Myles Bryant set to make the final roster. Keeping five safeties seems unlikely.
All that said, Bryant missed the preseason finale and if his injury is significant, Colbert could sneak his way onto the roster.
Special Teams (6)
Making the Team: Nick Folk, Joe Cardona, Jake Bailey, Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, Cody Davis
Cut: Quinn Nordin, Brandon King
Analysis: Brandon King could make his way onto the final roster, but it’s going to be tough. Including Bolden, Matthew Slater, Justin Bethel, Cody Davis, and Langi already on the roster for special teams roles, it’s hard to justify keeping King.
Meanwhile, Nick Folk is more reliable than Quinn Nordin, which makes him the better candidate for the starting kicker job.
Toughest Cuts: Joejuan Williams, Kristian Wilkerson, Brandon King, Adrian Colbert, James Ferentz