The New England Patriots were quite busy on Saturday, cutting down their roster from 77 to 53 players. While most of the moves were expected — such is the case in a year without preseason football — some were not, at least to a degree. With that in mind, let’s go through the releases based on five categories and rank the releases from the least to the most surprising.
The “We all saw that one coming” category
24. QB Brian Lewerke, 23. TE Paul Quessenberry, 22. C Tyler Gauthier, 21. DT Nick Thurman, 20. WR Andre Baccellia, 19. OL Ben Braden, 18. DT Bill Murray, 17. TE Paul Butler, 16. LB Tashawn Bower, 15. WR Isaiah Zuber, 14. TE Jake Burt, 13. TE/LB Rashod Berry, 12. DT Xavier Williams
The players listed here all were in an unfortunate situation. They either were buried on the depth chart (Lewerke, Thurman), joined the team relatively late in the process (Quessenberry, Gauthier, Baccellia, Braden, Butler, Williams), were unable to regularly see the practice fields (Bower), or were in the unfortunate situation that they had to prove their value as rookies without the benefit of actual exhibition games (Murray, Zuber, Burt, Berry).
Either way, seeing the 13 players in the “least shocking” group get released was no surprise. The question will be how many will be brought back via the 16-man practice squad. Some, such as the rookie free agents, could make it based on their developmental upside and the depth ahead of them on the 53-man team.
The “It’s understandable yet disappointing” category
11. K Justin Rohrwasser, 10. LB De’Jon Harris, 9. CB D’Angelo Ross, 8. LB Terez Hall, 7. WR Devin Ross
When you invest a draft pick in a kicker, the hope is that he is able to contribute right away. Justin Rohrwasser, however, was unable to do that: while his leg strength was intriguing, his consistency was worrisome and eventually led to his release. He is therefore in the same boat as the other four players listed above; they all displayed some solid traits over the summer but eventually were not consistent enough to be kept around on the 53-man team.
That said, the Patriots’ lack of true off-the-ball linebacker and wide receiver depth could propel the team to bring De’Jon Harris, Terez Hall and Devin Ross back if they clear waivers. D’Angelo Ross, meanwhile, showed that he also could be worth further developing.
The “Would have been nice if he could have made the team” category
6. CB Myles Bryant, 5. WR Jeff Thomas, 4. RB J.J. Taylor
Myles Bryant had probably the best training camp of the Patriots’ undrafted rookie class: he registered three combined interceptions during team drills and was competitive whenever he was challenged. Unfortunately, the depth ahead of him at cornerback made it near-impossible to survive cutdowns. The same also held true for J.J. Taylor, who drew comparisons to former Patriots back Dion Lewis but simply was the odd-man out at a deep position.
Jeff Thomas, meanwhile, was one of the most hyped-up UDFAs this year based on his impressive athleticism — prompting some to claim that he would make the team despite having a relatively quiet training camp. He did not, however, and will have to clear waivers to possibly remain in New England via the practice squad.
The “Minor shock!” category
3. RB Lamar Miller, 2. LB Cassh Maluia
The two players listed here are in this category for different circumstances. While Lamar Miller was added coming off a season-ending knee injury and had to start his training camp on the physically unable to perform list, his contract and potential upside made him a realistic candidate to find his way onto the 53-man team following his reactivation. He could still be brought back, but for now was let go again.
Cassh Maluia, on the other hand, was waived despite a) coming off what looked like a solid training camp and b) the Patriots keeping only one true inside linebacker — defensive signal caller Ja’Whaun Bentley — on their active team. Based on these circumstances, it appeared as if he had good chances of surviving cutdown day. His release was therefore a minor surprise.
The “Major shock!” category
1. K Nick Folk
This has more to do with timing than anything else. When Justin Rohrwasser’s release was reported, the belief was that Nick Folk had won the place kicker competition. Alas, he too was cut. While chances are that he is brought back after some further roster shuffling, seeing him let go was still a surprise when the cut was first reported. For the time being, the Patriots do not carry a single place kicker on their roster.