The next six days will be filed with difficult decisions and even tougher conversations for the New England Patriots.
The Patriots must cut their roster from 83 players to 75 by Tuesday and to 53 by Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. They’re loaded at safety, pass rusher and offensive line, which means very talented players will be left off the regular-season roster.
Here are six players firmly on the roster bubble:
TE/OL MICHAEL WILLIAMS
Williams was acquired last week from the Detroit Lions, and the 6-foot-6, 304-pounder played tight end Friday night against the Carolina Panthers. Williams played offensive tackle with the Lions and tight end in college at Alabama, when he was 35 pounds lighter.
Williams’ lack of position, and the Patriots’ crowded depth chart at tight end and offensive tackle doesn’t ensure him a roster spot. The Patriots might be willing to give Williams an extra look as the season begins, however, since they gave up a 2017 seventh-round draft pick in the trade.
SAFETY TAVON WILSON
Wilson certainly is talented and valuable enough to make the Patriots, but a crowded group at safety and a hefty salary might preclude him from doing so.
Devin McCourty and 2015 second-round pick Jordan Richards are locks to make the 53-man roster, while starting strong safety Patrick Chung and backup free safety Duron Harmon should be considered near-locks. That leaves Wilson and special-teams ace Nate Ebner, who’s due just $684,150 this season. The Patriots would save just $660,000 by releasing Ebner.
Wilson, who’s in the fourth year of his rookie contract, is due $1.342 million this season. The Patriots would save $965,166 by cutting him.
The Patriots could elect to keep six safeties, but that would hurt their depth elsewhere.
RB TRAVARIS CADET
Cadet hasn’t been a full participant in practice since Aug. 8, when he limped off the field with trainers. That can’t help his status on the Patriots’ 53-man roster with Dion Lewis burning up the field in preseason games.
Cadet was considered a top candidate to fill the Patriots’ third-down back role left vacant by Shane Vereen, but now Lewis, James White and Brandon Bolden are considered the front-runners. The Patriots signed Cadet to a two-year, $1.715 million contract with just $65,000 guaranteed, so money isn’t an issue.
DE RUFUS JOHNSON
Johnson isn’t likely to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster, but he’s making a solid push in the preseason. He didn’t suit up because of injury in the Patriots’ second preseason game, but he impressed against both the Green Bay Packers in the opener and the Panthers last week with his pass-rushing skills.
The 6-foot-5, 272-pound defensive lineman has impressive size and versatility on his side. Unfortunately for the second-year pro, the Patriots just invested a third-round pick in pass rusher Geneo Grissom and a fourth-rounder in Trey Flowers. They also signed free agent Jabaal Sheard over the offseason, so there isn’t much room for Johnson to make the squad, deserved or not.
CENTER DAVID ANDREWS
Andrews has started three consecutive preseason games at center with Bryan Stork and Ryan Wendell nursing training-camp injuries. Andrews’ play has been up and down, however, and his shot of making the Patriots’ 53-man roster might have taken a hit with Wendell recently coming off the physically unable to perform list. The Patriots also traded for offensive lineman/tight end Michael Williams.
Andrews is competing for a final spot on the Patriots’ interior offensive line with Josh Kline, Ryan Groy and Wendell. Stork and rookie guards Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason are locks for the 53-man roster.
DL ZACH MOORE
Moore, like Johnson, might be the victim of loaded pass-rushing depth. Moore added 20 pounds over the offseason, however, and has been working at defensive tackle this summer.
Moore has plenty of upside, given his 6-foot-6, 290-pound frame, but he’s still raw in his new role and could use a season on the practice squad. Dominique Easley, Malcom Brown and Sealver Siliga are locks for the 53-man roster, while Alan Branch has a good shot to make the team and Chris Jones, at this point, likely will start on the PUP list.
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