In a stunning turn of events, Gunner Olszewski’s storybook summer has earned him a New England Patriots roster spot after all.
After informing the wide receiver/return man he had been released ahead of Saturday’s cutdown deadline, the Patriots reversed course and opted to keep Olszewski on their roster, a source confirmed to NESN.com’s Doug Kyed.
Olszewski’s inclusion coincided with the Patriots’ decision to trade cornerback Keion Crossen to the Houston Texans. NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport was the first to report both moves.
Olszewski, a former cornerback and returner at Division II Bemidji State who joined the Patriots via rookie tryout this spring, earned praise from coaches and teammates for his competitiveness and tenacity during the preseason. Though his skills as a receiver still are developing, he excelled on punt returns, averaging 13.1 yards per runback.
Julian Edelman typically handles punt return duties for the Patriots, but Olszewski could take over those responsibilities to lighten the 33-year-old’s workload. Edelman appeared to tweak his previously broken thumb during Thursday’s preseason finale, and though the injury isn’t considered serious, New England could take a cautious approach with its star wideout early in the season.
Olszewski has drawn comparisons to Edelman for his playing style and versatility. During Thursday’s game, he played 23 snaps on offense, 16 on special teams and 29 at cornerback after injuries left the Patriots thin in the secondary.
New England received a sixth-round draft pick in return for Crossen. The 2018 seventh-rounder was a valuable special teamer for New England as a rookie, establishing himself as one of the team’s top punt gunners.
Crossen shook off an underwhelming start Thursday night to turn in an impressive performance against the New York Giants, finishing with one interception, four pass breakups and a team-high 12 tackles.
The Patriots also traded cornerback Duke Dawson and a sixth-round pick to the Denver Broncos for a fourth-rounder on Friday. They’ll enter the season with a corner group of Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones and rookie Joejuan Williams.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images