The New England Patriots have to make a decision on the status of quarterback Jarrett Stidham and Byron Cowart soon. The two players are currently still on the physically unable to perform list (PUP), but their 21-day activation window will soon close: New England has until Wednesday to either activate them to its 53-man roster or shut them down for the remainder of the year.
Two mid-round selections by the Patriots in the 2019 NFL Draft, Stidham and Cowart were both sent to PUP at the start of training camp. While Stidham was moved to the reserve list after undergoing back surgery in July, Cowart was forced to spend the summer and early portions of the regular season there for undisclosed reasons.
Both of them returned to practice on October 20, opening the aforementioned activation window. The two are in the same spot in that regard, but they find themselves in different situations relative to the depth at their respective positions.
Stidham’s outlook is very much uncertain given that first-round rookie Mac Jones is firmly entrenched as the Patriots’ starter. The third-year man would therefore fill a backup role on the active roster — one currently held by veteran Brian Hoyer. Would New England keep two backups? That is a question the team will have to answer, and it will very much determine Stidham’s roster status.
Cowart, meanwhile, is coming off a season that saw him serve as the Patriots’ number four interior defensive lineman in terms of snaps played. With fellow D-lineman Henry Anderson out for the remainder of the year, New England might benefit from having him back on the active roster as a rotational depth option up front.
If the Patriots activate one or both, they will take up spots on the team’s 53-man roster. At the moment — following the release of offensive lineman James Ferentz — one of them is open. New England also has two open spots on its practice squad, but the team would have to expose Stidham or Cowart to waivers first before being allowed to re-sign them to the 16-man developmental squad.
In case the Patriots decide against activating Stidham or Cowart, they would stay on PUP for the rest of the season.
New England also has three other players eligible to return to practice off either PUP or the non-football injury list (NFI). However, linebackers Terez Hall and Cameron McGrone as well as defensive back Joshuah Bledsoe have not been spotted at practice yet.