With roster cutdowns looming, the New England Patriots will not just have to decide who to release to get under the league-mandated 53-player threshold by Saturday afternoon’s deadline but also whether or not to pick any outside talent up to bolster their roster. This process will look different in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the league’s preparatory process, but it would still not be a surprise to see the Patriots add players to their roster either via trade, free agency or the NFL’s waiver wire.
History, after all, strongly suggests that at least one such move might happen over the next few hours: since the old collective bargaining agreement was signed into effect in 2011, the Patriots acquired a total of 35 players that way on cutdown weekend. While not all of the moves would turn into success stories, the organization’s willingness to invest in available players is well documented and could therefore come into focus again this year.
With that said, let’s take a look at New England’s cutdown deadline additions over the last nine years (h/t Zack Cox).
(Roster cutdowns worked differently before 2017, with teams cutting from 90 to 75 after the third preseason game; the names listed here were added only around the final cutdown from 75 to 53)
LS James Dearth, LB A.J. Edds, FB Dan Gronkowski, CB Antwaun Molden, WR Tiquan Underwood, S Ross Ventrone, G Brian Waters
The Patriots were quite active around 2011’s cutdown weekend. While most of the moves were rather inconsequential, a few do stand out: Antwaun Molden appeared in all 19 games for the team as a rotational perimeter cornerback, while Tiquan Underwood appeared in six contests before earning the dubious honor of getting cut on the eve of Super Bowl 46. The biggest success story of the group is undoubtably Brian Waters, though, he started every game at right guard that year and was voted to the Pro Bowl — all despite getting signed as a free agent just eight days before the regular season opener.
TE Michael Hoomanawaui, WR Greg Salas, WR Kerry Taylor, OL Matt Tennant
New England explored the whole menu of player acquisition in 2012: Kerry Taylor and Matt Tennant were claimed off waivers (and later released again before appearing in a single game for the team); Greg Salas was brought aboard via trade (and later played six offensive snaps before being voted to Pats Pulpit’s All-Anonymity Team of the 2010s); Michael Hoomanwanui was signed as a free agent (and... actually had a solid career as a blocking tight end over three seasons as a Patriot).
G Chris Barker, C Braxston Cave, LB Ja’Gared Davis, DT A.J. Francis, TE Matthew Mulligan DT Gilbert Peña, LB Chris White
Of the seven players who were added from outside the organization on 2013 cutdown weekend, seven were claimed on waivers. Matthew Mulligan, meanwhile, was signed as a free agent. New England did find some success in its moves: Mulligan appeared in 17 games as a blocking tight end, while Chris White spent two seasons in New England as a core special teamer and won a Super Bowl to cap the 2014 season.
CB Don Jones, TE Tim Wright
Tim Wright arrived in New England as part of the trade that sent guard Logan Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He spent only one season with the Patriots, but appeared in all 19 of their games that year as a receiving tight end behind Rob Gronkowski. Don Jones, meanwhile, was claimed off waivers from the Miami Dolphins. He appeared in nine games before being let go again.
CB Justin Coleman, WR DaVaris Daniels, WR Jalen Saunders, DT Khyri Thornton, TE Michael Williams
The Patriots were rather active again in 2015, by claiming two players off waivers (DaVaris Daniels, Khyri Thornnton), acquiring two more via trade (Jalen Saunders, Michael Williams), and signing Justin Coleman as a free agent. Williams and Coleman were quite successful during their time with the Patriots: the tight end played 17 games in 2015 as a blocker and special teamer, while the cornerback appeared in 22 contests over two seasons.
CB Eric Rowe
Rowe’s tenure with the Patriots may have been marked by injury, but he did have some solid stretches of play between getting acquired via trade and leaving as a free agent again last year. Over his three seasons in New England, he appeared in 27 games — including two Super Bowls.
CB Johnson Bademosi, WR Phillip Dorsett II, LB Marquis Flowers, LB Cassius Marsh
Johnson Bademosi, Marquis Flowers and Cassius Marsh would all see action for the Patriots in 2017 after being acquired via trade, but only Phillip Dorsett would have a somewhat lasting impact. The former first-round draft pick, who was acquired in exchange for quarterback Jacoby Brissett from the Indianapolis Colts, appeared in 51 games for the club and made some crucial catches during its 2018 Super Bowl run.
WR Amara Darboh, WR Chad Hansen
New England claimed both Amara Darboh and Chad Hansen off waivers two years ago, but neither of them ever made it onto the field in a Patriots uniform. The two wide receivers were essentially brought in on tryout basis but did not find a role on a team actively looking for wide receiver depth.
C/G Russell Bodine, T Korey Cunningham, G/T Jermaine Eluemunor
The Patriots made three trades around last year’s cutdown deadline. While Russell Bodine’s tenure with the Patriots lasted just a week, Korey Cunningham and Jermaine Eluemunor are still in town: Cunningham is fighting for a roster spot as a depth offensive tackle, while Eluemunor earned the starting role at right tackle following Marcus Cannon’s Covid-19 opt-out. The latter is therefore guaranteed a roster spot this year.