Bill Belichick oversees a roster that includes five former Cleveland Browns. Three of whom were acquired via trade. Two others were originally drafted by the head coach’s side and returned as free agents.
All are veteran starters for the New England Patriots.
But here’s a glance through both sides of the roster ties heading into Sunday’s 4:25 p.m. ET kickoff at Gillette Stadium.
Garrett Gilbert, quarterback – The Patriots signed Gilbert to the practice squad in December 2014, and his stay would stretch into June 2015. The former Texas Longhorn, Southern Methodist Mustang and St. Louis Ram would be waived during organized team activities as the corresponding move to New England signing quarterback Matt Flynn. Gilbert has been with four NFL clubs since then, along with the Alliance of American Football’s Orlando Apollos, making his regular-season Browns debut this October.
Charley Hughlett, long snapper – Hughlett was thrice a member of the Patriots’ roster in 2014. The Central Florida product initially signed that March, then signed to the practice squad in September and ultimately re-signed to the practice squad in November. Hughlett has remained in Cleveland since the tail end of that season. The 29-year-old long snapper signed a six-year contract extension with the Browns in 2017, and has appeared in 70 career games for the organization.
Josh Gordon, wide receiver – Gordon, who’d be placed on New England’s injured reserve Wednesday, was originally selected by Cleveland in the second round of the 2012 supplemental draft. Gordon would lead the league in receiving yards a year later, despite missing two games, en route to earning Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors. But suspensions saw Gordon start just 11 games over his next three years with the Browns before he was traded to the Patriots with a seventh-round pick in exchange for a fifth-rounder.
Ben Watson, tight end – The No. 32 overall pick in the 2004 draft rejoined New England this spring, only to be released as his roster exemption expired following a four-game suspension. But Watson has become a Patriot once again since then. The 38-year-old tight end initially left Foxborough for Cleveland in 2010. And Watson, who’s also made stops with the New Orleans Saints and Baltimore Ravens, would collect 154 receptions for 1,674 yards and eight touchdowns over 45 appearances with the Browns.
Danny Shelton, defensive tackle – The Browns went with the Washington Huskies nose tackle at No. 12 overall back in 2015. New England later sent a 2019 third-round selection to Cleveland in exchange for a 2018 fifth-round selection and Shelton. Shelton re-signed with the Patriots this spring after having his fifth-year option declined. He’s now in the ballpark of last year’s tackle total while also with a career-high sack total. Shelton checked in to 46 games while with the Browns, starting all but one.
Jamie Collins, linebacker – It was at the 2016 NFL trade deadline that Collins found himself in Cleveland. The former Pro Bowl and second-team All-Pro now finds himself back in New England. The Browns released Collins this offseason, and his time as a free agent gave way to a return to the war room that took him in the second round of the 2013 draft. The Southern Mississippi bandit linebacker has intercepted three passes and posted 4.5 sacks during his Patriots renaissance. Collins hasn’t missed a start.
Jason McCourty, cornerback – The Browns intended to release McCourty. In fact, those intentions were announced. But the Patriots announced their intentions, too, while swapping a sixth-round pick in the 2018 draft for a seventh-rounder last March to reunite one McCourty twin with another. The veteran corner out of Rutgers started a dozen games during his initial season with New England. McCourty has started every game thus far into 2019, as well, after reaching a two-year extension in the initial stages of free agency.