The New England Patriots cut to a roster of 53 by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday.
That is where the similarities between last Labor Day weekend’s deadline and this year’s largely come to an end for head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio.
A total of 20 players from New England’s initial active roster of 2019 do not reside on the initial active roster of 2020.
The reasons for change range from free agency and trades to drafts and waivers. The Covid-19 opt-out list and injured reserve have also played a part. As have procedures with vested veterans and the waiting game with practice squads.
Some players won’t be away from Gillette Stadium for long.
But here’s the contrast between the Patriots’ first 53-man roster from 2019 and 2020.
- 2019: Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham
- 2020: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer
Brian Hoyer had been released one Labor Day weekend ago after a rookie fourth-round pick in Jarrett Stidham led the AFC in preseason passing yards. And after a regular season spent with the Indianapolis Colts, the 2009 undrafted arrival is now back for his third stint in New England’s quarterback room. This time, Tom Brady doesn’t have a seat. Cam Newton does.
- 2019: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden
- 2020: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris
New England led the NFL in opt-outs. Core running back Brandon Bolden would be among them. But a 5-foot-6, 185-pound undrafted rookie in J.J. Taylor and a vet in Lamar Miller would be waived and released, respectively, on Saturday.
- 2019: James Develin
- 2020: Jakob Johnson
Following James Develin’s retirement, Jakob Johnson gets the nod at fullback. An alumnus of the NFL International Player Pathway program, the former Tennessee Volunteer and Stuttgart Scorpion appeared in four contests for New England last regular season.
- 2019: Ryan Izzo, Matt LaCosse
- 2020: Ryan Izzo, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene
At last year’s roster deadline, the Patriots released 2004 draft choice Benjamin Watson and set out with Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse. This year, a pair of rookie third-round picks are on the job for tight ends coach Nick Caley.
- 2019: Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Matthew Slater, Phillip Dorsett, Josh Gordon
- 2020: Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Damiere Byrd, Matthew Slater
On Aug. 31, 2019, Bemidji State’s Gunner Olszewski was kept in the fold after cornerback Keion Crossen was traded to the Houston Texans. But the shuffle continued as calendar turned. Top pick N’Keal Harry was stashed to become eligible to return off injured reserve. In addition, veteran Demaryius Thomas re-signed only to be sent to the New York Jets.
- 2019: Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, Jermaine Eluemunor, Korey Cunningham, Marcus Cannon, Russell Bodine, Ted Karras
- 2020: Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, Jermaine Eluemunor, Korey Cunningham, David Andrews, Hjalte Froholdt, Yodny Cajuste, Michael Onwenu, Justin Herron
Center and captain David Andrews makes his way back onto the field after missing all of 2019 due to blood clots in his lungs. Elsewhere, Jermaine Eluemunor projects to take over at right tackle with longtime starter Marcus Cannon opting out of 2020. But there are moving parts along the line. That was seen last season before the opener, with trade acquisition Russell Bodine released and James Ferentz brought back.
- 2019: Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Byron Cowart, Deatrich Wise, Danny Shelton, Michael Bennett
- 2020: Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Byron Cowart, Deatrich Wise, Beau Allen
Danny Shelton agreed to terms with the Detroit Lions on a two-year deal as the new league year got underway. Fellow nose tackle Beau Allen’s two-year pact followed.
- 2019: John Simon, Chase Winovich, Shilique Calhoun, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, Jamie Collins
- 2020: John Simon, Chase Winovich, Shilique Calhoun, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Brandon Copeland, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Derek Rivers
Youth abounds between inside and outside linebacker for the Patriots. Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Jamie Collins moved on to new clubs. Reigning Pro Bowler Dont’a Hightower then opted out. And last week, 24-year-old Ja’Whaun Bentley was voted a team captain. But not lost at the deadline was Derek Rivers. The first pick in New England’s abbreviated 2017 draft remains after spending two of the past three seasons on IR.
2019: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams
2020: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel
There is continuity at corner for the Patriots. The depth chart is not short on flexibility, either, with 6-foot-3, 212-pound Vanderbilt product Joejuan Williams entering his sophomore year also as part of the safety equation.
2019: Devin McCourty, Terrence Brooks, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Obi Melifonwu
2020: Devin McCourty, Terrence Brooks, Adrian Phillips, Cody Davis, Kyle Dugger
With Duron Harmon traded, Nate Ebner departing as a free agent and Patrick Chung opting out, there are vacated snaps at safety. That holds true both on defense and in the kicking game. No. 37 overall pick Kyle Dugger out of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne will have a chance to take his share in the company of offseason signings.
2019: Stephen Gostkowski, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona
2020: Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona
New England’s all-time scoring leader is a Tennessee Titan now. And in his place at kicker, it is a wait and see. Rookie fifth-rounder Justin Rohrwasser was waived on Saturday. The Patriots also released Nick Folk, who was perfect on extra points and 14-of-17 on field goals last campaign.