The New England Patriots are 88 days away from their 2016 season opener against the Arizona Cardinals, but it’s never too early for a roster projection.
The Patriots have an extremely deep and talented roster, and head coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio will have some very, very difficult decisions during final cuts after training camp and the preseason.
Here’s how NESN.com sees it going down nearly three months out from Week 1:
In: Tom Brady*, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
*Currently suspended four games to begin the season.
— Brady is, at least for now, suspended, so he won’t count against the Patriots’ 53-man roster in this projection. It was difficult enough cutting down to 53 players, not including Brady. So, yes, I am taking the easy way out.
RUNNING BACK (5)
In: Dion Lewis, LeGarrette Blount, James Develin, Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster
Out: Joey Iosefa, Tyler Gaffney, Donald Brown, James White
— At this point, White has a better shot of making the roster than Foster. But this is a projection, and I project Foster to have a stronger training camp because he’s a better athlete.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
In: Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin, Malcolm Mitchell, Matthew Slater
Out: Chris Harper, DeAndre Carter, Devin Lucien, Aaron Dobson, Nate Washington
— Harper, Carter, Lucien, Dobson or Washington would need a very strong camp to beat out Martin.
TIGHT END (3)
In: Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Clay Harbor
Out: Steven Scheu, Bryce Williams, A.J. Derby
— With Michael Williams hitting injured reserve, Harbor has a pretty clear path for a roster spot. Derby and Williams had their moments this spring, though.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
In: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Joe Thuney, Jonathan Cooper, Bryan Stork, Shaq Mason, LaAdrian Waddle, Marcus Cannon, Josh Kline
Out: Chris Barker, Cameron Fleming, Tre’ Jackson, Ted Karras, David Andrews
— It was difficult leaving out Andrews, but Thuney has been receiving reps at center, and if the Patriots are confident enough in his ability to snap the ball, it would allow them to keep an extra interior lineman like Cooper, Stork or Kline, who have more upside or dependability.
DEFENSIVE LINE (8)
In: Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Shea McClellin, Geneo Grissom, Terrance Knighton, Vincent Valentine
Out: Woodrow Hamilton, Joe Vellano, Anthony Johnson, Rufus Johnson, Frank Kearse, Markus Kuhn, Trey Flowers
— Flowers is a surprise cut, but the Patriots are deep with pass rushers. Sheard, Long, McClellin, Grissom, Rob Ninkovich and Jonathan Freeny have experience rushing off the edge.
In: Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Rob Ninkovich, Kamu Grugier-Hill, Brandon King, Jonathan Freeny
Out: C.J. Johnson, Kevin Snyder, Ramon Humber, Elandon Roberts
— It could come down to Grugier-Hill or King, but for now, they both make the roster.
In: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Jonathan Jones, Darryl Roberts
Out: V’Angelo Bentley, Cre’von LeBlanc, E.J. Biggers
— Flowers was essentially left out to keep Jonathan Jones and Roberts. They both have great athleticism and upside.
In: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner
Out: Cedric Thompson, Brock Vereen
— Harmon and Richards will serve as backups, and Ebner is a special-teams ace.
SPECIAL TEAMS (3)
In: K Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, LS Joe Cardona
Out: LS Christian Yount
Thumbnail photo via Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY Sports Images