Safety James Sanders has very quietly been one of the Patriots' most reliable defensive players over the past several seasons, but he's due to make a reported $2.8 million in 2011, which is the final year of his contract. At the end of the day, will the Patriots determine that he's worth the money?
Sanders, Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung, Jarrad Page, Sergio Brown, Bret Lockett and Josh Barrett are among the players who are expected to compete for four or five roster spots.
Why He'll Make the Team
Sanders always seems to be the same guy, whether he's starting or playing in a backup capacity, but he's dependable. At 27, he's the oldest safety on the roster, and his leadership is valuable for the younger group. Amazingly, there are only six Patriots who have been on the team longer than Sanders, and that's a generous number because it includes free agents Kevin Faulk and Matt Light.
The Pats have some dynamic safeties on their team, and Sanders complements them nicely. There's no doubt that he's still an asset to the organization.
Why He Might Not Make the Team
Money. The Patriots will be up against the cap this season, and they have a good group of safeties. If they need cap flexibility, Sanders will be one of the first to go unless he proves that he deserves unquestionable consideration as a starter.
After Sanders' game-sealing interception against the Colts in 2010, Belichick wrapped his arm around him on the sidelines and told him he made a championship play, which turned out to be one of the defining moments and sound bites of New England's season. Belichick respects Sanders, and I think it would be difficult to cut him. However, if the Patriots are pressed against the cap, they might not have much of a choice.
Every day through July 29, Jeff Howe will spotlight one player who could potentially be on the Patriots' roster bubble.
Wednesday, July 27: Cornerback Kyle Arrington
Friday, July 29: Wide receiver Julian Edelman