The New England Patriots have one of the deepest rosters in the entire NFL, but there are still some positions that could benefit from reinforcements. The two most prominent at the moment might be wide receiver and offensive tackle: personnel turnover going back all the way to the offseason, and recent injuries suffered by core players such as Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett and Isaiah Wynn have left the two position groups somewhat vulnerable.
Luckily for the Patriots, reinforcements might be on their way as two players who were initially projected to play considerable roles this season are now eligible to return to practice off the team’s health-related reserve lists: wide receiver N’Keal Harry, who opened the year on injured reserve (IR), and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste, who spent all of training camp and the early portions of the regular season on the non-football injury list (NFI).
Harry and Cajuste, of course, are members of New England’s rookie class; Harry was drafted with the final pick of the first round in April, while Cajuste came to the Patriots via a third-round selection. Their respective tenures with the club were off to a rocky start, however, as injuries limited them: Harry hurt his leg just three snaps into the preseason opener, while Cajuste was still recovering from offseason quad surgery.
Now, the Patriots are allowed to bring them to practice before potentially activating them further down the line. The circumstances, however, are slightly different for both players based on the reserve lists they are currently on:
- Harry is allowed to start practicing now but cannot return to the active 53-man roster (and game action) until after Week 8. Once he is back at practice, he takes one of the two available IR-return spots while a 21-day window opens during which he either has to join the active team or return to injured reserve for the rest of the season. New England does not have to bring him back to practice right away, however.
- Over the next six weeks, the Patriots have to decide whether or not to bring Cajuste back into the fold. If they do, and he returns to practice, the team has the same 21-day window it has with Harry (or other IR-return candidates) when it comes to activating him: he either joins the 53-man roster, or he spends the remainder of the season on NFI. The latest New England can therefore bring him back is Week 15.
Whether or not the Patriots actually activate Harry and Cajuste remains to be seen. With the NFL’s trade deadline approaching, however, the two players might be part of the equation — and the solution when it comes to bolstering depth at two key positions.