The New England Patriots are required to cut their roster down to just 53 players before a league-mandated 4:00 pm EST deadline today.
If the first weekday after the conclusion of the NFL regular season is referred to as “Black Monday” for head coaches, then today should be called “Black Saturday” for what it represents to hundreds of players across all 32 teams in the league.
This morning, all of these same players have lockers, teammates, friends… a job. By later on this afternoon, they will all be looking for employment elsewhere, just like so many average Americans are.
It’s humbling to say the least for some of these men, especially those who were considered rockstars in the small towns they came from or at the college programs they dominated. The NFL is a cruel business, and it’s a professional’s game, after all. This is one of those occasions where coaches, general managers, and team owners have to separate their personal emotions from sound decision-making for the good of the franchise.
Without further ado, here’s our projection for the final 53-man roster the Patriots will bring with them into the 2019 regular season:
Quarterback – Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham (3)
And in that order, too. Brady’s not going anywhere obviously, and Hoyer remains too valuable a backup to part with at this time, despite Stidham’s rapid development and the promise he showed all throughout the preseason.
Running Back – Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden (5)
The Patriots boast the most talented backfield from top-to-bottom in the NFL. No other team has such versatility with their backs, many of whom can excel both as traditional runners and as receivers through the air.
Fullback – James Develin (1)
James Develin will continue kicking it old-school for as long as Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels remain committed to this traditional, throwback power-running offense… and maybe even longer, too.
Wide Receiver – Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Demaryius Thomas, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Matthew Slater (8)
This one might be a bit of a stretch, as the Patriots have rarely – if ever – carried eight receivers on their game-day roster. That said, Slater and Olszewski make the list solely for their contributions on special teams. Cameron Meredith remains on the PUP list.
Tight End – Matt LaCosse (1)
With Benjamin Watson and Lance Kendricks both due to miss time this year because of suspensions, expect the Patriots to go extremely light at the tight end position until both veterans return further down the line.
Offensive Line – Isaiah Wynn, Korey Cunningham, Joe Thuney, Ted Karras, Russell Bodine, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Jermaine Eluemunor (8)
Obviously there’s still a question of whether or not David Andrews will miss this entire season because of the blood clots in his lungs. Realistically, it’s hard to imagine him coming back to NFL action anytime soon considering how recently his condition was diagnosed.
Defensive Line – Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise Jr., Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, Danny Shelton, Byron Cowart (6)
Bennett and Wise are the main pass-rushers coming off the ends, with the other four names bunkering down along the center of the Pats’ defensive front to clog up running lanes and make life miserable on opposing centers and guards.
Linebacker – Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins Sr., Ja’Whaun Bentley, John Simon, Chase Winovich, Elandon Roberts (7)
Hightower, Van Noy, and Collins should see the most time on the field together this season. Winovich has been one of the better stories of the preseason, and he could pose a serious threat to lead the Pats in sacks this year.
Cornerback – Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Joejuan Williams, Keion Crossen (6)
Arguably the deepest area on the roster, the Patriots have their most talented group of corners in the history of the Bill Belichick era. Opposing wide receivers will have their work cut out for them trying to gain yards or score on this unit all season long.
Safety – Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks, Nate Ebner (5)
Patrick Chung obviously bears close monitoring as the season progresses due to his arraignment on cocaine possession charges. Assuming his questionable criminal status doesn’t interfere with his in-game contributions, Chung is a key cog in a loaded Patriots defensive backfield.
Special Teams – Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Bailey, Joe Cardona (3)
These three positions are far and away the ones with the least amount of remaining drama attached to them on cut-down day. Gostkowski and Cardona are both veteran proven commodities, and Bailey knocked off Ryan Allen earlier this preseason.