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How will the Patriots fill their two open roster spots heading into training camp?

New England currently has 88 players under contract.

Yesterday, out of the blue, veteran wide receiver Andrew Hawkins announced his retirement after only two months with the New England Patriots. The 31-year old’s decision is not expected to have too big of an impact on the team but it creates yet another vacant spot on the 90-man offseason roster – a spot New England will likely fill before training camp starts tomorrow.

The question is: Who will the team bring on board this relatively late in the offseason; how will the Patriots fill the two spots? Let’s take a look at the three options.

By filling the spots one-for-one

Hawkins’ retirement leaves New England with nine wide receivers on the roster. Considering that six of them – Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, special teams ace Matthew Slater – are lock or near-locks to make the team, adding some depth seems like a logical move. After all, it would take some pressure off the sextet and give the backup quarterbacks additional weaponry to work with.

The second vacant spot was created when New England waived second-year guard Chase Farris with a non-football injury designation. Following the move, the Patriots are left with five potential candidates to fill the backup role(s) along the interior offensive line – still sufficient but it would not be a surprise to see them team add to the current depth chart.

Potential candidates: Alvin Bailey (OG), Orlando Franklin (OG), Dorial Green-Beckham (WR), Patrick Lewis (OC), Jamari Staples (WR), Jon Toth (OC)

By addressing the lighter positions on the roster

The Patriots have arguably the deepest roster in the NFL right now. But while only a few spots on the team are up for grabs during training camp, New England might opt to use its two roster openings to add to the lighter positions on the roster. Wide receiver and the interior offensive line, at least from a depth perspective, again need to be listed here – as do tight end, slot cornerback and strong safety. All three positions might benefit from adding another player to the competition for final spots on the 53-man roster or the practice squad.

Potential candidates: TE Gary Barnidge (TE), Brandon Flowers (CB), Ladarius Green (TE), Hayden Plinke (TE), Sam Shields (CB), Aaron Williams (SS)

By bringing in potential injury replacements

On Monday, the Patriots placed linebacker Dont’a Hightower and defensive tackle Alan Branch on the physically unable to perform list. Both are expected to be activated off the list soon but until then, the team could look at adding (short-term) replacements to keep the depth at the respective positions strong and keep the rotations alive through the first few practices.

Potential candidates: Harold Brantley (DT), Austin Calitro (LB), Sen’Derrick Marks (DT), Roy Miller (DT), Charmeachealle Moore (LB)