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Patriots Roster Projection, v2

The “all-important” third preseason game has been played.  Great time to make another projection, since no regulars will really play in the fourth preseason game.  No regulars that count anyway.  A new wrinkle this year though is that there is no cut down to 75 players.  The entire 90 man roster of each NFL team will be able to play in those teams’ final preseason game on Thursday night.  Then a day and a half later, the rosters will be slashed to the regular season limit of 53.  It’ll be a crowded waiver wire on Saturday afternoon.  Good thing I don’t have to sift through all those names.  Anyway, here goes:

Offense:

QB (3):

Locks:  Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Haven’t heard much lately about Brissett’s roster spot being in jeopardy.  I still don’t see that being the case anyway.  I suppose if he stinks Thursday night…

RB (6):

Locks:  Mike Gillislee, Rex Burkhead, James White, Dion Lewis

In:  James Develin, Brandon Bolden

Out:  D.J. Foster, Glenn Gronkowski

Way Out:  LeShun Daniels

Comments:  Six running backs is pretty steep.  But I think they will find room for Bolden, as much as that pains me.  They love him too much on special teams.  And in a pinch they think he can play a little RB.  People seem to be throwing Lewis’ name out there for trade consideration, and although that wouldn’t surprise me, I don’t know if that’s realistic.  I mean, he has talent, but is injury-prone.  So who’s going to give the Pats anything for him?  And he can fill a nice role here anyway.  Side note:  it was great seeing White get tripped up by the yard lines in the last game again.  I know, he was awesome in the Super Bowl.  All the props in the world to him for that.  But has anyone seen the rest of the games in his career?

WR (3):

Locks:  Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola

In:  None

Out:  Austin Carr, Devin Lucien

Way Out:  Cody Hollister, K.J. Maye, Tony Washington

Injured Reserve:  Malcolm Mitchell (designated to return), Julian Edelman (out for the season)

Comments:  In the original projection I said this position was pretty much set in stone.  Oops.  Tough deal with Edelman.  He was flying out of the gate in that last game.  Looked primed for another big year, even with the addition of Cooks.  He is Brady’s main man, after all.  Going to be a tough loss on third downs especially.  But…every team has key injuries, so what can ya do?  Hope that opens the door for Cooks to really light it up.  But it’s a good thing that Amendola is back.  Makes him a lock now.  Mitchell was brought along slowly in camp because of a knee injury.  Then it looked to me that he aggravated it in the second preseason game.  No one is really talking about it, but he didn’t play in the last game.  I feel like he is a candidate for one of the two IR-designated to return spots that NFL teams have this year.  Get that thing fully healthy for the stretch drive.

That leave three guys there…obviously kind of lean.  People may say that guarantees a spot for Carr or Lucien, but I’m not there yet.  These guys seem to be perfect practice squad guys…if they clear waivers at cut downs that is.  The Pats dressed only 3 receivers in several games last year.  I think they may do it again early on if Mitchell ends up on IR.  Matthew Slater can play WR in a pinch, though I don’t really want to see him there.  But more importantly, one of the extra backs could always line up there too.  Then it allows the team to carry a third TE or extra lineman or someone at another spot.

TE (2):

Locks:  Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen

In:  None

Out:  James O’Shaughnessy, Jacob Hollister

Way Out:  Sam Cotton

Released:  Matt Lengel

Comments:  Still feel like the Pats start with 2 tight ends.  Develin could play there in a pinch as well as an offensive lineman, likely Cameron Fleming, who they have put there repeatedly…though not necessarily with positive results.  They are probably hoping Hollister gets to the practice squad.  But when Lengel heals (out for several more weeks with injury they are saying), they could always pick him back up.  Possibly O’Shaughnessy as well.  Not really worth talking about the third TE much more.

OL (9):

Locks:  Nate Solder (LT), Joe Thuney (LG), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT)

In:  Ted Karras (G/C), Conor McDermott (T), Cameron Fleming (T), LaAdrian Waddle (T)

Out:  Jamil Douglas (G), James Ferentz (C)

Way Out:  Cole Croston (T), Andrew Jelks (T), Jason King (G), Max Rich (T)

Injured Reserve:  Antonio Garcia (T) (designated to return?)

Comments:  The starters are set in stone, though Solder has been managing an injury.  Which forces me to put both Fleming and Waddle back on at the start of the season, for insurance.  As well as Fleming’s experience at TE.  Again, feel like they want to hang on to McDermott, so the thinking is they need to keep him initially before trying to waive him to the practice squad after teams have their rosters set the first week.  I have no idea if he can play, but I feel like Dante Scarnecchia will want to try to take those physical tools and try to develop him into something.  Douglas was the last guy I cut and I really know nothing about him…other than that they could use an extra guard probably.  I suppose it’s not life or death…especially if he lands on the practice squad.  Garcia has been a ghost…but as a third round pick, I believe he may be the other candidate for the “IR-return” spot.  Dante may want to work on developing him as well…and not lose practice time by having him go on long-term IR.  But maybe they save the IR-return spot for someone who gets a long-term injury early in the year…and will actually be a factor at some point THIS year…and put Garcia on ice for the year.  He won’t be able to practice, but at least he can study the playbook.

DE (3):

Locks:  Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise, Geneo Grissom

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  Michael Bart

Injured Reserve:  Derek Rivers (out for the season)

Released:  Kony Ealy, Caleb Kidder

Comments:  Welp, I suppose those early in camp rumors about Ealy were spot on.  Guess I should listen more.  But just…wow.  The guy can’t get his act together to play for the Patriots?  In a contract year?  Inexplicable.  I suppose he got what he “asked” for.  Getting claimed by the New York Jets after he was waived.  I wonder how he feels now?  Probably still doesn’t care.

Losing Rivers is a blow.  No idea how good he is or can be.  But now the team is down to three defensive ends…and one is essentially a special teamer in Grissom.  Some people are clamoring for a Rob Ninkovich return.  Not me.  With all due respect, he is probably close to done.  Even though some of the linebackers here can pretty much cover some of the depth issues here, I expect the team to look hard through the cuts this upcoming weekend and nab a guy or two.  I would think they have to.  And I’m not counting on big things from Michael Bart, who was just signed yesterday.

DT (5):

Locks:  Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine

In: Adam Butler

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo

Way Out:  Josh Augusta

Comments:  Elevated Butler from “way out” in version #1 to “In” now.  Why?  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  He’s gotten some buzz and Belichick does love his fat guys.  Maybe he’s a guy they keep on the initial 53 and then try to slide to the practice squad after teams set their rosters.  Either way, there’s no need to talk about it more.  The rest is still cut and dried here, as noted in the first projection.

LB (7):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower

In:  David Harris, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, Harvey Langhi, Jonathan Freeny

Out:  Trevor Bates

Way Out:  Brooks Ellis, Christian Kuntz, Nick Usher

Comments:  Dropped Harris to where I initially was going to put him.  Some people have not been enamored with his play thus far.  Freeny gets back on cuz, yup, Bill loves his special teamers too.  Langhi has shown some skills, but just like all six in the “In” section he has been up and down.  Kuntz and Usher were just signed yesterday, hope they enjoy playing Thursday night.  Not sure we can expect much else from them.

CB (5):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones

In:  Cyrus Jones

Out:  Justin Coleman, D.J. Killings

Way Out:  William Likely, Dwayne Thomas

Comments:  Cyrus has not “flashed” in any way, shape or form.  But I have to believe he still gets that second year here, at a minimum.  The rest is kind of obvious and the whole lot hasn’t changed from the first projection.

S (4):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

In:  Jordan Richards

Out:  None

Way Out:  Jason Thompson, Damarius Travis, David Jones, Kenny Moore

Comments:  I said the last time that Richards probably gets one more chance and seemed to squeak on my roster here.  Got a lot of run in the last preseason game with mixed results.  Hey, another questionable second round pick at safety in Tavon Wilson got four years here, why can’t Richards get three?

Specialists (6):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Brandon King (ST)

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Same ol’, same ol’.

Bonus?  Practice squad shot in the dark:  Foster, Carr, Lucien, Jacob Hollister, Douglas, Ferentz, Hamilton, Augusta, Killings, Moore.  Though half those dudes may get claimed and Bill will want to bring in five other young guys he sees on the wire anyway…

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New England Patriot Roster Projection-Defense

Moving on to the defense…while being thankful the roster apparently has not changed in the last couple of days.  Cuz, you know, Bill likes to consistently churn the back-end of the roster and mess us all up.  Wait, I may be the only one who cares about the bottom of the roster.  Anyway, here goes:

DE (5):

Locks:  Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy, Derek Rivers, Deatrich Wise

In:  Geneo Grissom

Out:  None

Way Out:  Caleb Kidder, Rob Ninkovich (retired)

Comments:  This is what I wrote in the first roster projection last year:  “Flowers and Grissom don’t appear to be stars in the making.”  Oops.  At least on Flowers.  Welp, I’ve been completely off before.  And most assuredly will be again.  Truth be told though, most people thought Flowers was on the fringe of the roster before the 2016 season.  Now he is the unquestioned top defensive end on the team.  So I wasn’t the only one.  There have been plenty of whispers about Ealy early in camp.  His attitude.  His fit on the team.  His “coachability”.  And he has been on the sidelines quite a bit, from all reports.  But the key phrase here is, “early in camp”.  I’m not taking him off the lock list…yet.  Rivers and Wise were two of their four draft picks.  Not likely to go anywhere.  And I am hearing Wise is running with the starters at this point.  Grissom takes Ninkovich’s spot.  It helps that he is a factor on special teams as well.  Most were surprised at Nink’s sudden retirement.  But maybe we shouldn’t have been.  He’s getting up there in age and also wasn’t the same difference maker last year as in previous years…you know, before the PED suspension.  Yup…

DT (4):

Locks:  Alan Branch, Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Vincent Valentine

In:  None

Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Darius Kilgo

Way Out:  Josh Augusta, Adam Butler

Comments:  Pretty much cut and dried here.  Branch re-signed on a nice deal.  Guy was signed to a fat deal himself, kind of out of nowhere.  May be a little push for Brown in his third year.  But the Pats like to rotate their big guys anyway.  Valentine showed enough last year to be locked in this year.  Hamilton and Kilgo may find themselves on the practice squad and therefore may surface on the active roster at some point this season.  And Augusta and Butler are “Way Out” for the simple reason that I’ve never heard of them.  Good enough for me.

LB (6):

Locks:  Dont’a Hightower, David Harris

In:  Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Kyle Van Noy, Harvey Langhi

Out:  Jonathan Freeny, Trevor Bates

Way Out:  Brooks Ellis

Comments:  When I started putting together this column last week, I actually had Harris as only “In” and not a lock.  Thought he may be that typical veteran who was a star elsewhere and then couldn’t adapt to the Patriots system/culture/etc.  Seemed to be a prime candidate for that.  Then I saw they gave him the green dot like 2 days into camp, leading the communication on the defense.  I know, that is “early in camp” too.  But I look at this development a little differently, right or wrong.  McClellin, Roberts and Van Noy all bring different skills to the table so I figured they all stick for now.  Langhi gets a nod here, simply because almost every year an undrafted free agent makes the squad out of the gate…and usually contributes.  He is the early pick simply because they gave him the most dough.  Freeny gets squeezed here, but wouldn’t shock me if he makes it, primarily for his special teams ability.  Bates is from Maine and that’s nice.  Ellis?  Yup, no idea who he is.

CB (5):

Locks:  Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones

In:  Cyrus Jones

Out:  Justin Coleman, D.J. Killings

Way Out:  William Likely, Dwayne Thomas

Comments:  Here’s another thing I wrote in the first roster projection last year:  “Cyrus Jones HAS to be better than any of the teams’ third cornerbacks last year, doesn’t he?”  And I had Jonathan Jones as “Way Out”.  Oops.  And.  Oops.  But I can’t see them giving up on Cyrus after only one year.  Wouldn’t be unprecedented though.  Jonathan has been apparently playing the slot in camp.  Add in the fact he is, yup, a special teamer…that makes him a lock.  Seems to me they like Rowe a lot too.

As for Gilmore and Butler, that whole scenario in the spring still baffles me.  Butler has done everything the team asked since he came out of nowhere 3 seasons ago.  Played at an All-Pro level the last two years, playing for peanuts and didn’t utter much of a peep about that.  I mean, he knows how this organization operates.  But still.  Then New England gives Gilmore a huge deal right out of the gate as free agency opened.  Not typical Patriot behavior.  Don’t blame Butler at all from being pissed.  Wasn’t surprised there was the stuff about him working out a contract with the New Orleans Saints and hoping the Pats worked out a deal with them.  Nothing materialized with the Saints (or any other team, for that matter) and Butler is still here without a long-term deal.  And even since then, you haven’t heard much from him regarding all of it.  And now I think most expect Butler to play with a chip on his shoulder and help himself in free agency next year.  That will also benefit the Patriots of course.  But did the team play this out right?  Time will tell.  But hope Gilmore ain’t a colossal bust…

Coleman could I suppose be a back-end guy, but there’s no room.  Killings was I believe the 2nd highest paid undrafted free agent in the Pats pool, so maybe he gets on the practice squad and gets elevated at some point.  Likely & Thomas?  Maybe I should watch more college football, so I can know who some of these camp bodies are.

S (3):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon

In:  None

Out:  Jordan Richards

Way Out:  Jason Thompson, Damarius Travis, David Jones, Kenny Moore

Comments:  Richards probably actually gets one more chance behind the three no-doubters and makes the squad when they break camp.  Three safeties is kind of thin.  But the other guys?  You know what I am going to say.

Specialists (6):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Brandon King (ST)

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Comments:  Nothing really to say here.  Some are surprised Belichick did not bring another kicker to camp due to Gostkowski’s uneven year last year.  I’m not.  There are plenty of kickers “kicking” around (haha) and I’m sure Bill has one or two or three in mind if last year’s issues move forward into this year.  No sense in wasting another camp spot on a kicker.  Other than that, the six here are pretty obvious.

That’s about the size of it.  I’ll wait until later in camp to project the practice squad and IR/PUP/NFI and other lists.  Actually, I’d say no one actually starts on the PUP list this year.  Only Hightower and Branch are currently on the preseason PUP list.  Hard to believe they will miss the first six weeks of the season, but I suppose you never know…

New England Patriots Free Agency Roundup, Part 4

NFL free agency begins Thursday afternoon at 4:00 pm.  Of course there is some sort of “legal tampering” period that starts Tuesday.  But let’s ignore that for now.  The following is one man’s thoughts on what’s going on with the players that ended the 2016 season on the Patriots’ roster, by position.

Defensive backs:

Players under contract:  Patrick Chung, Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Jones, Devin McCourty, Jordan Richards, Eric Rowe

Free agents:  Malcolm Butler (restricted), Justin Coleman (exclusive rights), Duron Harmon, Logan Ryan

What I would do:  Take some of that cap space and lock up Butler.  Sure, you have a year to do it, but do it now.  The guy has done everything the team has asked.  And played at an extremely high level.  The cornerbacks behind him on the depth chart are…sketchy.  Even if Ryan stays, he is up and down.  I’m not ready to give up on Cyrus yet.  But he needs to get his head out of his arse next year.  Rowe?  We will see with a full offseason in the program.  Not enticing.  Pay Butler.

Ryan has improved since he’s been here.  I’d like to keep him.  But I’m not giving him #1 cornerback dollars.  Harmon can take a hike.  Should be able to find just about anyone that can play 30 yards off the line of scrimmage and pick off stupid throws.  Maybe that guy is Richards next year.  He was a 2nd round pick after all.  I’d get another decent body or two at corner though.

What I think will happen:  The Patriots don’t pay Butler until they absolutely have to.  Perhaps their hand is forced if someone makes him an offer and the Pats are forced to match.  I know the Pats have signed Chris Hogan and Wes Welker and probably others off the restricted free agent market before.  They have also made offers to plenty of players before, such as Emmanuel Sanders.  But I feel like the rest of the NFL is not as aggressive on restricted guys.  I could be wrong.  But I don’t know if I see anyone coming after Butler.  Haven’t heard ANY rumors about it either.  The silence could be a sign however.  Some team could swoop in under the radar.  Worth monitoring closely, either way.

Ryan gets overpaid by some stupid team.  As does Harmon.  The Pats eventually add some bodies.  But of course no one of significance.

Specialists:

Players under contract:  Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Nate Ebner (ST), Stephen Gostkowski (K), Matthew Slater (ST)

Free agents:  Brandon King (ST) (exclusive rights), Barkevious Mingo (ST)

What I would do:  Nothing.  I mean, what difference does it make?  Allen and Cardona seem more than capable at their jobs.  I’m not sure the Patriots need to go searching for upgrades there.  Gostkowski?  It’s time for some competition for the guy for sure.  But I’m not laying out big dollars in free agency for a kicker.  Not when I believe that all the money left on the last two years of Gostkowski’s contract is guaranteed.

Gostkowski has had a pretty good career.  He’s been borderline automatic since early in his career until this year.  Sure, he hasn’t made a ton of big kicks like his predecessor, Adam Vinatieri.  But he hasn’t had as many opportunities either.  His kickoffs, long and short, have been normally what you ask for.  And may have made a difference in this past Super Bowl.  I have a hunch that he had some sort of injury this year that wasn’t talked about.  Perhaps not.  But he deserves a chance to keep his job.  Bring in some kid to camp to push him.  But don’t spend in free agency.

The special teamers?  Whatever.  I’d have actually loved to see Bill use Mingo on defense to see what he could do.  Maybe just speed rush the passer.  They obviously thought he couldn’t do anything though, so they never put him in.  Slater and Ebner had a ton of tackles, but they are signed.  The rest of them…not worth worrying about too much.

What I think will happen:  Absolutely nothing noteworthy during the heat of free agency.

Next:  Another sport.  We are done here!!  Mercifully…

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