The New England Patriots’ initial 53-man roster is set, but it’s far from finalized. Over the next eight days, the Patriots will continue to make transactions before next Sunday’s Week 1 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots front office’s job isn’t done for the day, either. Now that they have dropped 22 players from their active roster, they’ll scour the waiver wire to find any players worthy of claiming. Last year, the Patriots claimed center Braxston Cave, guard Chris Barker, defensive tackle A.J. Francis and linebacker Chris White the day after 53-man roster cuts.
The Patriots, as usual, made some surprising decisions on cut day. Let’s go through them:
The Patriots elected to go with just five linebackers on the initial 53-man roster, and that lack of depth has some fans freaking out on social media. Beauharnais, who received a ton of snaps during the preseason, was the most surprising cut at the position.
Beauharnais showed intelligence during his time with the Patriots, but he didn’t excel in coverage, and he isn’t big and strong enough to be an effective run stopper. The 2013 seventh-round draft pick was given plenty of opportunities, but he couldn’t make the most of them. Beauharnais still could make the Patriots’ practice squad, however.
The Patriots are left with just Chris White and Darius Fleming behind starting linebackers Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins, though Rob Ninkovich also provides depth from the edge. Ninkovich started at strongside linebacker in 2011. The Patriots likely will add another linebacker before Week 1.
The Patriots aren’t required to forfeit a seventh-round pick to the Green Bay Packers because Worthy didn’t make the 53-man roster. The big defensive tackle was acquired during training camp, but he didn’t have enough time to prove he deserved a roster spot.
The Patriots have plenty of depth along their defensive line, with Vince Wilfork, Chris Jones, Joe Vellano, Dominique Easley, Sealver Siliga and Zach Moore left on the roster. Worthy can be signed to the practice squad if he clears waivers.
JOSH BOYCE AND ROY FINCH
After releasing Boyce and Finch, the Patriots are left without an obvious kick returner. It might not matter, however, since most kickoffs go for touchbacks. Rookie running back James White is the most obvious candidate to return kicks with Boyce and Finch gone.
Both Boyce and Finch are candidates for the practice squad.
The Patriots are left without a long snapper after cutting Aiken on Saturday. The Patriots likely will add another long snapper Friday, and they’ll almost certainly sign another specialist before Week 1.
Ninkovich was the Patriots’ backup long snapper after the team cut Tyler Ott this summer, but it’s unlikely they would use a defensive starter that heavily in the specialist role.
Assistant coach Steve Belichick, who long snapped at Rutgers, probably can handle snapping duties in practice until the Patriots sign another player.
CHRIS BARKER AND JORDAN DEVEY
It was surprising to see the Patriots keep 10 offensive linemen through first cuts, though that probably won’t last as they look for an extra linebacker or a long snapper. Barker stayed on the 53-man roster throughout the 2013 season, so obviously the Patriots like the second-year guard. Devey received many snaps this summer at multiple positions, and the Patriots are fans of versatility.