UPDATE (5 p.m. ET): The Patriots placed wide receiver Jordan Matthews on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. They did not release him, as previously reported. The Patriots can release Matthews with an injury settlement at any time.
ORIGINAL STORY: FOXBORO, Mass. — While putting together a New England Patriots 53-man roster projection earlier this week, one of the toughest cuts was wide receiver Jordan Matthews.
Apparently it wasn’t as difficult for the Patriots.
Matthews, who seemed like a bargain after signing a one-year, $1 million contract this offseason, was released Wednesday, according to multiple reports, after suffering a hamstring injury early in training camp.
If anything, this clears up some questions in assembling the Patriots’ receiving corps. Julian Edelman will start the season with a four-game suspension, but he’s a lock for the roster when he’s reinstated.
It’s difficult to imagine the Patriots keeping more than six wide receivers, including special teamer Matthew Slater, early in the season. Those six wide receivers, as of today, likely would be Slater, Chris Hogan (both locks), Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt and one of Braxton Berrios or Riley McCarron.
The other options are Devin Lucien and Paul Turner, both of whom are long shots for the team.
Neither Berrios nor McCarron has stood out six practices into training camp, but the Patriots will need a punt returner while Edelman is out. It’s hard to imagine the Patriots using Hogan, safety Patrick Chung or running back Rex Burkhead in the role, and Berrios and McCarron have been taking reps in the return game. They both have potential as future slot options.
The Patriots could look outside the organization to fill out their receiver depth. The Patriots reportedly worked out Eric Decker earlier this week, but the fact that New England signed fullback Henry Poggi, not Decker, after cutting Matthews means a deal likely isn’t imminent.
Other intriguing veteran receivers, like Dez Bryant and Jeremy Maclin, still are available, but it seems unlikely the Patriots would sign a big name unless even more injuries occur. Assuming Britt and Slater can make it off the physically unable to perform list soon, five of the Patriots’ six receiver spots are looking pretty solid. Despite the injuries, the Patriots have enough bodies at the position to keep practicing, and there’s always hope that Lucien, Turner, Berrios or McCarron could push for roster spots with strong preseasons.
The Patriots’ wide receiver depth has seen better days, but it’s likely Matthews was going to be left off the roster regardless. If anything, Matthews’ release makes the job security of Britt, Dorsett and Patterson even more solid than it already was.
Assuming good health, Hogan, Britt and Dorsett likely will be the Patriots’ top three receivers for the first four weeks of the season.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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