The New England Patriots might make their cuts earlier than necessary.
The Patriots have a short week with their regular-season opener coming Thursday, which means they’ll hold practice Saturday through Tuesday.
The Patriots are on to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and there’s no use in having 75 players on the field Saturday when they only need 53 to prepare for the regular season, so the team could begin making cuts Friday. The Patriots still are likely to announce their releases Saturday at 4 p.m., however, because they won’t want the other 31 NFL teams to have an extra day to be exposed to their cuts.
Here’s NESN.com’s final 53-man roster projection:
In: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo
Out: Ryan Lindley
Tom Brady’s suspension was vacated, so there’s no reason for Lindley to stay on this roster.
RUNNING BACK (4)
In: LeGarrette Blount*, James White, Jonas Gray, Dion Lewis, Brandon Bolden
Out: Tony Creecy, Travaris Cadet
Cadet is a very difficult cut since he didn’t appear in a single preseason game this summer due to injury. Blount begins the season with a one-game suspension, so he won’t count against the 53-man roster.
*Suspended for Week 1
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
In: Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, Danny Amendola, Reggie Wayne, Aaron Dobson, Matthew Slater
Out: Zach D’Orazio, Chris Harper, Jalen Saunders, DaVaris Daniels
Dobson didn’t really substantially prove he deserves a spot on the 53-man roster Thursday night, but he still has more upside than D’Orazio, Harper, Saunders or Daniels.
TIGHT END (4)
In: Rob Gronkowski, Scott Chandler, Michael Hoomanawanui, Michael Williams
Out: Asante Cleveland
Fullback James Develin is out for the season, which could push Hoomanawanui into that role, forcing the Patriots to carry a fourth tight end. Williams won’t contribute much as a receiver, but he’s a solid blocking option.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
In: Nate Solder, Ryan Wendell, Bryan Stork, Tre’ Jackson, Sebastian Vollmer, Shaq Mason, Cameron Fleming, Marcus Cannon, Josh Kline
Out: David Andrews, Ryan Groy, Caylin Hauptmann, Chris Martin
Andrews hasn’t proven to be consistent enough, and with Wendell back, the Patriots don’t need another reserve center. That being said, I’m not 100% convinced Wendell is a lock to make the roster, though he absolutely should.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
In: Chandler Jones, Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Malcom Brown, Dominique Easley, Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers
Out: Zach Moore, Rufus Johnson, A.J. Pataiali’i, Casey Walker, Eric Martin
PUP: Chris Jones
I could see a situation where Moore or Johnson makes the roster over Branch, though it would leave the Patriots with a lack of depth at defensive tackle. It depends on whether the Patriots think Brown can contribute immediately at defensive tackle.
In: Dont’a Hightower, Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins, Jonathan Freeny, James Morris, Darius Fleming
Out: Xzavier Dickson, Brandon King
PUP: Dane Fletcher
Fleming might be a bit of a surprise, but he’s impressed on defense this summer and contributed on special teams late last season for the Patriots.
In: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Tarell Brown, Robert McClain, Bradley Fletcher
Out: Daxton Swanson
Many seem to think McClain or Ryan could be left off the Patriots’ 53-man roster, but I can’t see it.
In: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner
Out: Tavon Wilson
Cutting Wilson is tough, but the Patriots could use some salary-cap relief, and Wilson would give them just that.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
In: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona
The Patriots’ special teams are set.
Last three in: Michael Williams, Darius Fleming, Nate Ebner
Last three out: Tavon Wilson, Travaris Cadet, Rufus Johnson
Practice squad: WR Chris Harper, WR Jalen Saunders, TE Asante Cleveland, OL David Andrews, OL Ryan Groy, DL Rufus Johnson, DL Eric Martin, DL Zach Moore, LB Brandon King, CB Daxton Swanson
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images