It didn’t take long for our final New England Patriots 53-man roster projection to become outdated, huh?
We included safety Jordan Richards in our predicted roster just for him to be traded to the Atlanta Falcons four hours later. The trade seems to be good news for defensive back Jason McCourty, who recently made a switch from cornerback to safety and was on the roster bubble entering the weekend.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gave encouraging words about McCourty’s play at safety in the Patriots’ fourth and final preseason game Thursday night against the New York Giants. Perhaps Belichick even saw enough from McCourty at the new position to make Richards expendable.
If McCourty makes the Patriots’ roster as a versatile defensive back, capable of playing cornerback or safety, then perhaps Richards’ trade could even open up the door for another cornerback to make the team.
In our 53-man roster projection, we had Richards, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner making the team at safety and Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, JC Jackson, Duke Dawson and Jason McCourty at corner. If the Patriots are OK with keeping 11 total defensive backs, then perhaps rookie Keion Crossen could earn Richards’ former roster spot.
If the Patriots take Richards’ roster spot and give it to a player at another position grouping, then perhaps second-year offensive lineman Cole Croston now could make the team. The Patriots liked Croston enough to keep him on their 53-man roster all of last season. He played sparingly this preseason until being on the field for all offensive snaps Thursday night. The Patriots could use some offensive line depth with rookie Isaiah Wynn out for the season, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon nursing a calf injury and backup Ulrick John suffering a lower leg injury against the Giants.
The Patriots also could take Richards’ spot and give it to another running back. It was notable to see Mike Gillislee, Jeremy Hill, Brandon Bolden and James White sit out Thursday night’s game as Rex Burkhead and Sony Michel continue to rehab knee injuries. Gillislee was not expected to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster, but perhaps the team has decided they need more running back depth as Burkhead and Michel continue to recover. If Burkhead and Michel are not ready for Week 1, then Gillislee would be necessary depth behind White, Hill and Bolden.
Richards’ spot could even go to another player acquired by the Patriots. The Patriots need additional depth at wide receiver, and there has been talk of the team adding another developmental quarterback to learn behind starter Tom Brady and backup Brian Hoyer. The Patriots brought four players aboard via trade at this time last season, and it could be another busy weekend.
Richards, a 2015 second-round pick, wound up being a player without a position in New England. The Patriots tried him at strong safety, free safety, linebacker and even as an edge defender, and he never made an impact in any of those roles. Jason McCourty already seems like a better option at safety, and he could provide valuable depth at cornerback if Gilmore, Rowe or Jones go down with an injury.
Thumbnail photo via Stew Milne/USA TODAY Sports Images