As we already chronicled in this space, the performance by the younger depth players on the Patriots was probably the most impressive aspect of the preseason opener. And we explained why that could be important to the league's oldest roster.
So that's great.
The flipside is ... how are you going to keep all of those players, especially players like Jakobi Meyers, Braxton Berrios, Byron Cowart, Shilique Calhoun and Nick Thurman — players who are largely on the outside looking in — even before injured players Cameron Meredith, Demaryius Thomas, Yodny Cajuste and Josh Gordon are ready to join the team?
To start, last year's Super Bowl roster lost only 11 players, and just five of those positions were on defense. The Patriots have ready-made replacements. That's the easy part.
Now things get a lot tougher, especially when you consider that you have to include two running backs in Brandon Bolden and Damien Harris, and they're likely not getting rid of any (Rex Burkhead's cap hit makes that tough).
I consider seven new players to be absolute locks to make the roster. Some positions, like punter and quarterback, are easy switches (if the Patriots are really going to go with only Jarrett Stidham at backup QB — I'm not so sure about that). Then we get into the players that I think represent the fat of the roster. Here are those swaps from the 53-man Super Bowl roster:
Now, this is where the fun — or uncomfortable conversations, depending on your point of view — starts. You want to see Meyers, Berrios, Calhoun or others of their upstart ilk on the roster — let alone Gordon, Meredith or Thomas? Then you're going to have to start letting go players who have played a lot of snaps for this team.
Basically, for every player you want to keep from the left column, you have to remove one on the right (you also have to factor in not being caught short at a position, but we'll deal with that later).
Each column represents my own personal pecking order — most desireable on the roster on the left, most cuttable on the right. For this exercise, we're not including Julian Edelman and Ben Watson — they're on the roster.
Not so easy, huh?
Will be interested to read your picks in the comments, but here are my choices in the interim (I'll have my latest 53-man roster for Monday morning):