It wasn't a surprise to see Eric Decker depart so quickly. Was mildly surprised Eddie Pleasant was let go (we thought he may have been viewed internally as an upgrade on Jordan Richards, but no such luck) but that's the way it goes with veterans — Bill Belichick prefers to give them the best opportunity to find employment elsewhere. While we're at it, it's probably a good sign for Jason McCourty that he hasn't been released yet. I have a hard time seeing Belichick stringing along Devin's twin and a Rutgers grad, and then releasing him with 1,900 other players on Sept. 4.
And McCourty factors into our most vexing area when it comes to trying to anticipate how Belichick will construct his final roster.
We'll get into that in a minute, but first our depth charts on both sides where we account for the three new players (RBs Kenneth Farrow and Khalfani Muhammad, WR K.J. Maye), who are almost certainly only here to round out the playing roster for the preseason finale.
What you'll find:
- Still projecting two players leaving via trade;
- Leaving a spot open for a trade/release at receiver;
- Adding an interior lineman to give the Patriots 26 players on offense;
- Using Pleasant's spot not to put Richards back on the 53, but to sneak another cornerback in;
- Cutting a linebacker to make up for the extra offensive spot.
Here we go with the master list, and then we'll get into a discussion:
A couple of notes before we get into the secondary:
- With Sony Michel back at practice Monday, I feel a little better in still projecting a Mike Gillislee trade/release, but Rex Burkhead's status could be the deciding factor.
- Thought about putting Devin Lucien or Braxton Berrios as the sixth receiver, but they're just not worthy of a spot at this time. Practice squad would be best. Patriots need another receiver, and Brandon LaFell might just be the guy. And, it could wait until after Week 1 (when the salary isn't guaranteed.
- Yes, I still wouldn't mind Dez Bryant, but it has to be on a cheap one-year deal.
- Ulrick John is still my fourth tackle, in a close race with Matt Tobin. Belichick saying last week that John can play both guard and tackle (so can Tobin) is significant, which means there may not need to be a fifth interior lineman. I added James Ferentz for this version because this area covers three positions, but you could flip a coin between him, Ted Karras and Brian Schwenke. All very similar.
- I released LB Christian Sam in this version. The sixth-round pick hasn't earned much playing time, and the Patriots may be trying to hide him to get him to the practice squad. If I was adding a fifth linebacker at this time, it would be Nicholas Grigsby. Marquis Flowers has either fallen out of favor since last season, or they know what he can do and want to take a look at Grigsby and Sam.
- I elected to keep an extra defensive back instead of a linebacker, which will us into that situation. Let's break out that group.
- So the real change was replacing Pleasant with Keion Crossen. Crossen, Richards and Cyrus Jones are all in the mix for that spot.
- You all know my feelings on Richards, and while Jones flashed a little against the Panthers, his explosion is not there yet. P-squad would be ideal for him.
- I wanted an extra cornerback on the team because between Jonathan Jones and Eric Rowe, I'm worried about depth. And I think the Patriots like Crossen, who struggled against the Eagles, but showed a lot bouncing back against the Panthers.
- You could flip a coin on whether McCourty or Duke Dawson end up as the reserve safety. Dawson needs to get on the field soon, or he's headed to inactive-ville for a while. I would want Jackson and McCourty on the 46-man gameday roster.
- Speaking of that, here is my gameday roster, and inactives list for this roster:
Questions? Comments? Please leave them in the comment section and I'll check back. One request: if you say, I want to keep Player X, please tell me who you could cut to replace them. Thanks!