When the NFL’s roster cutdown deadline came on Saturday, 4 pm, more than 800 players were released from their teams. The majority of them — those with fewer than four accrued seasons in the league — were placed on the waiver wire: teams have until 12 pm today to put in claims in order to add them to their active 53-man rosters.
The New England Patriots, who have the 23rd spot in the claiming order after departing the playoffs on wild card weekend last year, have no open spots on their squad right now.
They have never shied away from making moves, however, which means that they could very well be active again today to bolster the depth at what appear to be their weakest positions at the moment. Is it likely this happens via waiver claim? Not really, given that other players with more experience in the system would have to be let go to create space for any potential additions. Is it impossible, though? Of course not.
With that being said, let’s take a look at six potential targets.
WR Robert Foster
A former undrafted free agent out of Alabama, Foster showed plenty of promise during his 2018 rookie season with the Buffalo Bills: appearing in 13 games, he caught 27 passes for 541 yards and three touchdowns while proving himself a solid field-stretcher. The additions of Cole Beasley and John Brown during the offseason in combination with injury issues stunted his growth, however, and contributed to him catching a mere three passes in 2019. Still, he does have some upside to possibly work with.
“A very explosive player and gets behind the defense, a catch-and-run player,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said about him back in 2018. “He’s fast; really fast. [Josh] Allen’s got a great arm and can’t overthrow him. He can’t outrun the quarterback, the quarterback can get the ball down the field to him. He’s been very exciting to watch.”
K Chase McLaughlin
The Patriots and McLaughlin do have a short history together: last December while struggling to replace injured Stephen Gostkowski, New England put an unsuccessful waiver claim on the then-rookie. McLaughlin eventually ended up with the Indianapolis Colts — the fifth team to bring him on board. Between stints with the Colts, the Los Angeles Chargers and the San Francisco 49ers (he also spent time in Buffalo and Minnesota), the 24-year-old made 18 of 23 field goal attempts (78.3%) as well as all 26 of his extra point tries.
New England, of course, currently has no kicker under contract after releasing both fifth-round rookie Justin Rohrwasser and veteran Nick Folk on Saturday.
DT Anthony Rush
Given the uncertainty surrounding free agency acquisition Beau Allen — the veteran was a no-show during training camp’s full-pads portion and appears to be a candidate for short-term injured reserve — New England might decide to bolster its defensive tackle depth behind Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and Byron Cowart. Anthony Rush may not be the most glamorous player available, but he has some upside as a big-bodied run-stuffer who reportedly had a solid summer with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Listed at 6-foot-5, 350 pounds, the second-year man has the size to clog lanes in the Patriots’ two-gap scheme. He might be worth a shot if the team feels uncomfortable with its current depth along the interior defensive line.
WR Ryan Switzer
Switzer started his career as a fourth-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2017. Between his rookie season and his subsequent two campaigns as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 25-year-old appeared in a combined 41 games while catching 50 passes for 321 yards and a touchdown. His offensive production may not be outstanding, but he also adds upside as an experienced punt and kickoff returner. If the Patriots want to bolster all three spots, Switzer might be a potential candidate.
TE Jordan Thomas
The Patriots’ initial 53-man roster features three tight ends: third-round rookies Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene are projected to serve as the one-two punch, with veteran Ryan Izzo as a blocking/depth option behind them. If New England sees a need to address that third spot, however, it could decide to put a claim in on now-former Houston Texans tight end Jordan Thomas.
A sixth-round draft pick in 2018, Thomas showed plenty of promise as a rookie. Appearing in 16 regular season games as well as the team’s lone playoff contest, he caught 20 passes for 215 yards and four scores. A better receiver than blocker, his sophomore year in Houston was disrupted by a chest injury: he spent parts of his 2019 campaign on injured reserve and caught only one eight-yard pass in five games.
LB Evan Weaver
Linebackers play an important role in the Patriots’ defense and works in unison with the two-gapping defensive linemen up front. However, the team currently has only one true off-the-ball option on its roster at the position: Ja’Whaun Bentely. While he may have limited upside and athleticism, Weaver could offer additional depth alongside Bentley while possibly filling the early-down role previously held by Elandon Roberts.
Weaver, a sixth-round draft pick by the Arizona Cardinals in April, has proven himself a stout run defender at Cal who also possesses a his high football IQ and quick processing skills. Add his leadership and high motor, and you get a player who fits what New England might be looking for on waivers — if he is deemed to offer more value than, say, veteran move linebacker Brandon Copeland.