For Patriots, Balancing Present Vs. Projection Makes For Tough Roster Calls

FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots on Tuesday released veteran running back Donald Brown, a player who, while he could not stay healthy this summer, has more than a half-dozen years of NFL experience under his belt.

The decision to send Brown on his way left three relatively untested players (Tyler Gaffney, D.J. Foster and Joey Iosefa) batting for the final spot on the Patriots’ running back depth chart. It also was another example of the conundrum NFL coaches and executives face every August: What’s more valuable, a higher likelihood of production in the short term or the potential for future success?

“That’s the $64,000 question,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday. “It’s been like that since the day I got into this league. In all the personnel meetings I’ve ever been in, it’s a player who’s more experienced, more ready to help the team now versus another player who’s not as ready now but at some point you think the pendulum will swing in his favor.

“Will you do that? Can you do that? What are the consequences of making that move? What are the consequences of not making the move? How likely is it that you could keep both players in some capacity? That’s what it’s about: trying to balance now with later.

“We’re going to field a team in November. We’re going to field a team next year. We’re going to field a team in 2018. Not that we’re getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we’re going to be in business in those years, so we have to sort of have an eye on those moving forward and a lot of the other factors that go into that. So, those are all tough decisions. They’re things you’ve really got to think about.”

Along with Brown, the Patriots also released veterans E.J. Biggers and Frank Kearse on Tuesday, leaving them with seven open spots on their 90-man roster. Belichick said there’s a chance they could fill one or more of those openings but noted that bringing in a player via signing or trade presents a similar problem.

“It’s the same thing as acquiring a player,” the coach said. “If you acquire a player, who are you acquiring? A young player for an older player? An older player for a younger player?  Help now versus help later? Developmental versus known performance? They’re all interrelated, but it all gets back to the same key points.”

NFL teams must trim their rosters to 75 players by Aug. 30. They then must cut ties with 22 additional players before Sept. 3, when finalized 53-man rosters are due.

“When it’s close, it’s tough,” Belichick said. “When it’s not close, then it’s not really a tough decision. It’s a relatively easy decision. But the ones that are close, some people in the room have one opinion, other people have another opinion — kind of a split camp there.

“And both sides’ arguments are good arguments, depending on your perspective. Is it today or is it tomorrow? I’m sure every team in the league is having a lot of those discussions about eight or 10 players.”

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images


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