Who Will Make the Cut?
Some Players Awaiting Fate Will 'Benefit' from Injuries
Dozens of players around the league will have a tough night sleeping, as their pro football jobs and careers are on the line. They'll get the news tomorrow whether they're making their team's 53-man roster and earning a "real" pro paycheck, whether they'll make a little more than peanuts on someone's practice squad, or whether they'll be looking for a new line of work.
The Patriots are in the enviable position of not having enough roster room for players they'd rather keep. Of course, the Patriots coaching staff sees value in players many other teams don't recognize.
Take wide receiver. Randy Moss, Donté Stallworth and Wes Welker are locks. But in a position where New England would prefer to keep five players, maybe six, they have four more (Jabar Gaffney, Reche Caldwell, Bam Childress and Kelley Washington) players for whom they only have a maximum three spots. Plus, they still have Troy Brown and Chad Jackson who will start the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list and will require at least one roster spot around midseason or get sent to Injured Reserve.
Safeties Willie Andrews, Mel Mitchell or Rashad Baker may benefit (temporarily) from Rodney Harrison's suspension.
A couple other players will extend their careers, at least for a while, by virtue of the "luxury" of the PUP list and IR. Believe it or not, they're lucky. Some players who are cut or assigned to a practice squad will have chances down the road. Many are going home for good.
But for Harrison's suspension, tomorrow will be a good day, as we find out who has earned a position on the Patriots for what promises to be an exciting 2007 campaign.
Here are my predictions:
Heath Evans (FB)
Russ Hochstein (also guard)
Le Kevin Smith
Adalius Thomas (and ILB)
Mike Vrabel (and ILB)
Asante Samuel *
Rodney Harrison **
Brandon Meriweather (also CB)
WR Kelley Washington could edge out Childress. Either one will probably be bounced when Troy Brown comes off the PUP list. Caldwell may go as well if Chad Jackson also comes off PUP, but he may end up on IR.
Punter Chris Hanson could be on the bubble, as the Patriots continue bringing in punters for tryouts. There's a good chance the Patriots will have more than one punter this season .. again.
LB Justin Rogers could beat out Pierre Woods, CB Tory James or Safeties Willie Andrews or Mel Mitchell.
Safety Rashad Baker could edge either Mel Mitchell or Willie Andrews.
WR Troy Brown (PUP)
WR Chad Jackson (PUP)
TE David Thomas (PUP or IR)
LB Oscar Lua (PUP or IR)
CB Eddie Jackson (PUP)
CB Mike Richardson (IR)
Vinny Testaverde will be kept on as a coach or consultant. Cassel is decent, but Gutierrez looks almost as good already, and he will eventually be the backup for the next few years. So the Patriots will try to trade Cassel for a decent draft pick. If they do, Testaverde will get back in uniform.
* The Patriots have a roster exception for Samuel through Sept. 10 (the end of Week 1 (don't forget Monday Night)) or when he is activated. That means one player on the "54-man roster" is a short-timer.
** Harrison is expected to be suspended by the NFL on Saturday. It is unknown whether he will appeal.