The Patriots will whittle down their roster to 75 players on Tuesday, September 1st by 4 PM EST. Just four days later, New England will have to bring their roster down to 53 players on Saturday, September 5th by 4 PM EST. Note that running back LeGarrette Blount won't count towards the 53 man roster, nor will quarterback Tom Brady unless the suspension is overturned by the courts.
For now, we will focus on the 75-man roster moves that will be determined after the Patriots play the Panthers this Friday. When looking at the current roster, it's fairly simple to cut the team down to 60 potential players as the difference in caliber between the players making the team (ex: defensive tackle Sealver Siliga) and those just trying to make it through the first roster cut (ex: defensive tackle Joe Vellano) is fairly obvious and considerable.
But the 75-man roster is interesting because the Patriots will likely be sitting a lot of their starters in the fourth preseason game against the Giants and the suspensions will allow two additional players to hang around. Here are some key factors that will weigh on the roster cuts.
Ryan Lindley is a 75-man lock, and so are the main running backs
Hopefully the third-string quarterback will never have to see the field, but until Tom Brady's suspension is resolved, Lindley is sticking around. As for the running backs, don't expect any of the competitors, like Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden, or James White, to be released due to the week 1 roster spot provided by Blount's suspension.
It's very possible that the extra running back will be released after week 1, but you should write them as locks for the first roster cuts.
Injuries might force extra receivers and linebackers through the first cuts
Linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower haven't played so additional preseason depth will be required for the fourth preseason game. Receivers Brandon LaFell, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, and tight end Scott Chandler have been dinged up so additional depth will be important to finish out the preseason.
Hopefully all of these players will be ready for week 1, and with LaFell still on the Physically-Unable-to-Perform list he is a candidate to sit out the first six weeks of the year, so a potential replacement is crucial.
Injured Reserve candidates will carry through the 75-man cuts
But the Patriots won't be able to stash their Injured Reserve- Designated to Return players until after the 53-man cuts, which means that players like LaFell or rookie cornerback Darryl Roberts will stick around through the 75-man cuts. This will eat up a few roster spots, but since most players currently considered 60-75 won't do anything to make the roster, it's better for the Patriots to save their top talent over keeping extra depth.
Positions with starter locks might need extra depth due to rest from the fourth preseason game
But while keeping injured players over depth makes sense for some positions, injury prevention will lead to extra depth at other roles. If the Patriots don't want to risk the health of tight ends Rob Gronkowski or Scott Chandler, look for New England to keep players like Jimmay Mundine and Asante Cleveland through the first cuts.
The final offensive line and defensive line positions are still up in the air and will a game time decision
And finally there are some positions that haven't been resolved. Alan Branch, Chris Jones,
Antonio Johnson, and Zach Moore are fighting for the final defensive tackle spots. Ryan Wendell is fighting Josh Kline and David Andrews for one of the final offensive line roster spots. These players will all play heavily in the third and fourth preseason games and will stick around until the final cuts.