Patriots roster projection: Surprise cut at cornerback?


It’s now the lone real dead period on the NFL calendar.

NFL teams have pretty much wrapped up all their spring work, roster-building and minicamp practices.

Players and coaches will disperse the globe for the next month or so, squeezing in some vacation time leading up to the opening of training camp at the end of July.

At that point, the real competition for roster spots and roles will heat up. Bill Belichick and the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots will have plenty of interesting training camp battles that will decide key jobs at a number of positions.

While Belichick has the luxury of waiting until September to make his final calls on the roster, here’s a projection after witnessing all the spring OTA and minicamp action of how the Patriots 2019 53-man roster might play out.

Offense (26)

Quarterback (3): Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham

Analysis: The only real question here is whether Belichick feels the need to keep three passers. If he goes with only two it likely means the fourth-round rookie Stidham had an impressive summer.

Running back (6): Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin (FB)

Analysis: Unless there’s an injury or a real surprise here, the committee seems pretty much set. The only issue is how the roles and touches are divvied out during the season.

Tight end (2): Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo

Analysis: Assuming there isn’t a trade (Kyle Rudolph is no longer an option) or signing, the tight end position is pretty thin. With Ben Watson suspended to open the season Belichick could decide to go a little light to steal a roster spot elsewhere.

Wide receiver (6): Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris, Braxton Berrios, Matthew Slater

Analysis: With Demaryius Thomas potentially destined to open the year on PUP, at best, there is plenty of wide open competition behind Edelman and the top pick Harry. Harris was impressive in minicamp, but others like Dontrelle Inman or undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers could certainly alter this list come August.

Offensive line (9): Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Isaiah Wynn, Ted Karras, Brian Schwenke, Cole Croston, Hjalte Froholdt

Analysis: Tackle – both finding a starter on the left side and overall depth – is an issue. After missing the spring rookie Yodny Cajuste appears a candidate to open his career on a list (PUP/NFI/IR). Backup line jobs are always competitive and often tough to predict, especially this early in the process.

Defense (24)

Defensive line (9): Michael Bennett, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr., Mike Pennel Jr., John Simon, Adam Butler, Chase Winovich, Derek Rivers, Danny Shelton

Analysis: The front is a versatile, competitive group that will have to make up for the loss of a couple key contributors from a year ago in Trey Flowers and Malcom Brown. Rivers and Shelton are far from locks at this point, while Wise’s health is worth watching after he was absent from spring workouts.

Linebacker (6): Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jamie Collins Sr., Brandon King, Elandon Roberts

Analysis: Collins is a solid late addition to the depth of this group, and his arrival pushed Christian Sam off this projection. King is a special teams guy, a key layer to the roster process. Roberts experience keeps him around for at least another year.

Safety (4): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Obi Melifonwu

Analysis: Nate Ebner didn’t take part in minicamp and even if he gets healthy could be in a major battle for a roster spot. Safety is a top-heavy position with the three veterans and limited backup potential, although the unique athlete Melifonwu got high-end reps in minicamp with Chung absent.

Cornerback (5): Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Duke Dawson, Joejuan Williams

Analysis: Gilmore was arguably the best player on the field in minicamp and looks to continue to build on his Pro Bowl resume. Jackson’s development in his second season could key the overall upside of the back end. Dawson and Williams offer matchup-based depth. Jonathan Jones is the interesting cut here, though a trade at the position of relative depth might also be an option, while Keion Crossen is also in the mix.

Specialists (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona

Analysis: Two of the three specialist spots are without competition this summer, while the rookie draft pick Bailey has a big leg and may find enough consistency to unseat veteran Ryan Allen.