The New England Patriots, who are currently in their middle of their 2019 preseason, have 90 players on their active roster at the moment. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.
Today, the series continues with one of New England’s recent free agency acquisitions.
Name: Cameron Meredith
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: TBD (offseason #1)
Opening day age: 26
Size: 6’3, 210 lbs.
2018 review: After spending all of 2017 on injured reserve due to a torn ACL, the Chicago Bears opted to place an original-round tender on Cameron Meredith in March 2018. Shortly thereafter, the New Orleans Saints signed the restricted free agent to a two-year, $9.6 million offer sheet. The Bears had five days to match in order to keep the former undrafted rookie from leaving, but they decided against it: Meredith joined the Saints.
In New Orleans, he served primarily as a rotational wide receiver but failed to return to the form that made him one of the league’s most intriguing young pass-catchers back in 2016. All in all, Meredith appeared in just six games for his new team and caught a mere 9 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown: he missed weeks one and two of the regular season, and was placed on injured reserve due to another knee issue following week nine.
When on the field, Meredith was used primarily as a big slot receiver who was also moved to the perimeter on occasion. In this role, he played 126 of the Saints’ 540 offensive snaps (23.3%) before his season came to a premature end. But even though his playing time was comparatively steady, his involvement was not: all of Meredith’s receiving statistics were posted during his first three games, and he wasn’t targeted at all over his final three.
Overall, Meredith’s first year with the Saints was largely a disappointment not just because it ended on injured reserve yet again. Even when he was on the field, he failed to make much if a difference for the Saints and was unable to develop a chemistry with quarterback Drew Brees. It was therefore no surprise to see the team approach him for a pay cut after the 2018 season had come to an end.
2019 preview: Despite taking the pay cut, Meredith’s tenure with the Saints eventually came to an end in late July. The team releasing him did, however, allow the 26-year-old to join the Patriots on a two-year, $2.0 million contract not even a week later. Upon arriving in New England, though, the team immediately placed him on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) — he did, after all, undergo a minor procedure this offseason to clean up his knee.
With his recovery timeline uncertain, Meredith appears to be a long-shot to make New England’s opening day roster. Instead, it seems more likely that he will remain on PUP until a later point in the year: he would be eligible to return after the Patriots’ first six games of the regular season have passed; if he stays on PUP through the window, however, he will end his third consecutive season on the sidelines.
Ultimately, the team’s investment in Meredith seems to have a long-term interest behind it: if he can contribute at one point in 2019, great, if not the team’s depth at wide receiver will allow him to focus on his recovery until next year, if need be. Then, he would add a comparatively cheap high-upside option to the Patriots’ aerial attack.