The number of players left on the Patriots’ roster from all three of their recent Super Bowl wins is dwindling quickly.

Only running back James White, wide receivers Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater and safety Devin McCourty remain from 2014 and beyond with Tom Brady, Marcus Cannon, Dont’a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Nate Ebner, Duron Harmon, James Develin and Stephen Gostkowski all off of the current 80-man roster either via opt-out, trade or free agency this offseason. That’s it — four players.

This is going to be a new-look Patriots team in 2020. Hope you’re ready.

Let’s get into this week’s mailbag. Watch above and read below.

@pereira_report: 
Expectations for Chase Winovich? #maildoug
If he’s not a starter in 2020, then it’s a disappointment. That’s where expectations are set after the Patriots lost Hightower to opt-out and Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts to free agency this offseason.

Winovich impressed as a rookie in limited opportunities with 5.5 sacks in just 28.9 percent of defensive snaps. He likely will be one of the Patriots’ starting outside linebackers/edge defenders in 2020 if all goes according to plan this offseason. He’ll be competing for one of those two roles with John Simon and rookies Anfernee Jennings and Josh Uche, among others.

I believe Winovich will be ready. He might not be as versatile as Hightower, Van Noy or Collins, but he’s a great pass rusher who should have the athleticism to drop into coverage in certain situations and the strength to set the edge.

@BingBong818: 
Based on the decrease of cap space next year, what do you see the patriots doing with their now abundance of cap this year?
Rolling most of it over to next season. As you said, BingBong818, the salary cap will be lowered next season to offset the loss of attendance in 2020. The Patriots are set to have an excess of cap space next season, but now the contracts of all six players who opted out — Hightower, running back Brandon Bolden, Chung, Cannon, fullback Danny Vitale and guard Najee Toran — will toll. That means that players like Hightower, Bolden, Vitale and Toran, who were set to be free agents after this season, will now be under contract in 2021. So, the Patriots must account for their cap hits next season unless they plan to cut or trade them, which is still a possibility.

Even taking that into consideration, the Patriots will have plenty of cap space to play around with next offseason.

Still, I can’t see the Patriots signing a high-priced free agent like Jadeveon Clowney. I do expect them to fill out their 80-man roster by signing four more players. But they’ll likely be minimum-priced rookies or low-cost veterans. They already started by signing quarterback Brian Lewerke on Thursday.

@jbobbo05: 
The Patriots have $24.7 million in cap space right now. If Bill decides to not use any of it, what happens to all that money going into next offseason? They already have one of the highest salary caps going into the 2021 season . #MailDoug
They’ll get to take it with them to the 2021 offseason. The Patriots will have much more spending space than the majority of NFL teams next offseason, which is certainly an advantage. They could have around $80 million in cap space if they carry over the full $24.7 million, which is unlikely.

Some teams will have to make massive cuts to get under the proposed $175 million salary cap. The Patriots should be well under that $175 million figure.

@mosh_0: 
what UDFA do you think benefits the most from the player opt outs
I’d say running back J.J. Taylor. The Patriots have just five running backs on their 80-man roster with Bolden opting out. Taylor is an injury away from essentially ensuring a roster spot. And he could earn a fifth spot on the running back depth chart if the Patriots like him enough. The Patriots kept five running backs in 2020.

Outside of Taylor, then I think tight end Jake Burt could prove himself as a fullback or Myles Bryant could carve out a role as a versatile defensive back.

If we’re including late-round picks, then I’d say offensive linemen Michael Onwenu, Justin Herron and Dustin Woodard and linebacker Cassh Maluia now have much better shots at roster spots after this week’s opt-outs.

@offroadtjnh
#MailDoug How do we fill this hole in the middle of the defense? I read about these rookies- come on? BB isn’t going to rely on rookie (s) to fill Hightowers spot, is he?
You might scoff at the idea of rookies playing significant roles this season, but what are the other options? The Patriots didn’t know so many players were going to opt out days before training camp began back when they were adding veterans in free agency. And it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. They had no cap space at the time.

If it’s not rookies, you’re talking about Ja’Whaun Bentley and Brandon Copeland at inside linebacker, Simon and Winovich at outside linebacker and Adrian Phillips or Terrence Brooks at strong safety. That could be good enough with Bill Belichick pulling the strings. The Patriots certainly would rather hit on some rookies like Kyle Dugger or Josh Uche this season, however.

More Patriots: Five Young Players Who Could Replace Opt-Outs

Let’s go rapid fire:

@KubaKazula: 
Why do you think Patriots didn’t fill those 5 roster spots yet? Chaos with the opt-outs? Trying something with that cap space? Seemed like bringing back UDFAs (or Gant) would be expected
I just don’t think they’re in a rush with actual practices beginning in two weeks. They’ll fill the spots, and I’m sure you’ll see more of those young players who were cut Sunday come back.

@Boss765_YT: 
What do you think Bill does with the remaining cap space? #MailDoug

You think a full NFL Season happens?

What would you do with the cap space?

Who do you think Bill starts at QB?

Who would you start at QB?

Projected Pats record?
— Rolls most of it over.

— I wouldn’t be surprised if things got pushed back or if a week or two of the season was lost. I’m trying to stay optimistic.

— Roll most of it over.

— Cam Newton.

— Cam Newton.

— 10-6 if all 16 games are played.

@gschofield22: 
Why aren’t we bringing in my boy Chris Hogan? He’s a FA and knows the system.
I think the Patriots are pretty comfortable with who they have at wide receiver after signing Damiere Byrd and Marqise Lee as free agents and adding a couple of undrafted rookies with potential.

@ZoddaZone: 
Why no competition at kicker where we’ve normally seen Belichick have a veteran compete with a rookie?
It is a little bit odd. There’s still time to add another kicker before training camp begins, but for now, Justin Rohrwasser is the only one on the roster. Maybe the Patriots are waiting to see how he looks before they decide whether or not to make another move for competition.

@Miller91_: 
Am I going to be busy on sundays Doug?
I hope so.

@zacklehan: 
how do you like your eggs #maildoug
Over medium.

@smorassutti: 
Will the McCourty twins play this year?! #MailDoug
It’s looking that way so far.

@D_West_03: 
If a player opts out, will they be able to rejoin the team later in the season if they change their mind?
It is “generally irrevocable.”

Hungo Bungo: 
What’s your favorite movie?
I really like “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” “That Thing You Do” and “Home Alone.”

I liked “Palm Springs” a lot too. Everyone should check that out.

@thespiritshopp1: 
Doug do you personally afree eith any of this? Why is there even still talk of a season? It’s truly shameful that the need for profit is standing above safety and responsibility
I don’t think we know yet. It all depends on how seriously NFL players and coaches, their families, and the rest of the United States population take the virus.

@thisryanjackson: 
sup?
Just getting back into the swing of things with work after taking all of my vacation time in one chunk before training camp. It’s going to be a different season, but we’re definitely staying busy so far.

More Patriots: What Will Training Camp Look Like This Summer?

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images