When looking at the Patriots roster cut-downs, there are always three things to remember:
- Patriots will cut a popular player and/or a player who everyone has in their 53-man roster projections. Justin Coleman, Rob Ninkovich, and Martellus Bennett could be those guys this year.
- Patriots always make a waiver-wire claim that no one expects. Last year, it was Justin Coleman who the Patriots initially claimed off waivers, then released him to sign to the practice squad before signing him off of Seattle's practice squad when he reneged on the plan.
- The Patriots may wind up wasting a roster spot to increase the chances of retaining a young and talented player they like. Chris Harper was the guy last year, I could see the Patriots doing that with DJ Foster and/or Devin Lucien.
- The back-end of the Patriots roster is always a fluid situation, the last 10% of the roster is constantly changing. A lot of teams will cut veterans then bring them back after Week 1 when their salary isn't guaranteed.
Taking those points into account, of the Patriots current 90-man roster, we could wind up seeing these guys make the overall roster.
- QB (3) T.Brady, J.Garoppolo, J.Brissett
- RB (5) D.Lewis, B.Bolden, D.Foster, J.Develin, L.Blount
- WR (6) J.Edelman, D.Amendola, C.Hogan, M.Mitchell, M.Slater, K.Martin
- TE (3) R.Gronkowski, C.Harbor, M.Bennett
- C (2) J.Thuney, B.Stork
- G (3) S.Mason, J. Cooper, J.Kline
- T (3) N.Solder, L.Waddle, S.Vollmer
- DE (4) J.Sheard, T.Flowers, G.Grissom, C.Long
- DT (4) M.Brown, A.Branch, V.Valentine, T.Knighton
- ILB(2) J.Freeny, D.Hightower
- OLB(2) J.Collins, S.McClellin
- CB (5) M.Butler, J.Coleman, D.Roberts, C.Jones, L.Ryan
- SS (4) P.Chung, B.King, N.Ebner, J.Richards
- FS (2) D.McCourty, D.Harmon
- ST (3) S.Gostkowski, R.Allen, J.Cardona (TBD)
- Waiver Wire (2) TBD, likely a linebacker and a defensive lineman
If you're wondering, yes this roster projection does not include Rob Ninkovich. Before you question my sanity, sobriety, and/or intelligence remember to read Point 1. The Patriots always cut a popular player or a player who everyone thought would make the roster. Ninkovich is a candidate to fall under that role due to age (32) and the sheer amount of snaps he had to play as the primary edge defender on the defensive left side for 3 years.
The roster projection does not include Donald Brown either, although I have him in the category of "Will Be Back After Week 1" when his salary isn't guaranteed on a weekly basis. I'd be more surprised if DJ Foster has more staying power than Brown over the course of the season. Alan Branch would have been another player would could have fit the category, although the Patriots spent a $800k roster bonus on him in March so that idea is likely not happening. Frank Kearse and Markus Kuhn are more likely to fit that category on a given week.
Tom Brady's suspension is another story line to follow, because that could be one more player for the Patriots that survives the cut-downs. Players that could benefit from the extra roster spot include Devin Lucien, Michael Williams, Rufus Johnson, and Kamu Grugier-Hill. By no means will I be 100% right with this projection nor will I get lucky with my prediction like I did for the Patriots Draft Class.