The NFL Draft is complete, the Patriots’ 90-man offseason roster has been filled out, and we all know what that means:
The roster is set. Everything is in stone. See you in September.
There won’t be any more roster moves made between now and Sept. 8 when the Patriots open against Pittsburgh. No one will get signed, no one will get cut. Bill Belichick won’t make any trades. There certainly won’t be any injuries, either.
Yup, the Patriots’ 53-man roster will be made up entirely of the players currently signed with the team.
Now that we have that established, let’s take a look at the Patriots’ Week 1 roster projection (plus the practice squad). Remember, you can lock this in. All predictions guaranteed to come true:
QUARTERBACK (2): Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham.
Practice squad: Danny Etling.
Analysis: Whither Brian Hoyer? The 33-year-old backup has been a great Patriot the last two years, but his time is up, unfortunately. The writing was on the wall when the Patriots drafted Stidham in the fourth round. Hoyer was a great scout-team quarterback, but Stidham and Etling are more than capable of handling those duties. Maybe the Patriots can trade Hoyer in training camp for a Day 3 draft pick instead of releasing him.
RUNNING BACK (5): James White, Sony Michel, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, FB James Develin.
Analysis: Pretty standard here. The only running back on the roster who won’t make the team is undrafted LSU rookie Nick Brossette. We’re counting Brandon Bolden as a special teams-only player, but he could carry the ball in an emergency.
WIDE RECEIVER (4): Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Maurice Harris.
Suspended: Josh Gordon.
Physically unable to perform: Demaryius Thomas.
Practice squad: Braxton Berrios, Jakobi Myers.
Analysis: The Patriots will have only four receivers on the active roster, with Harris beating out Bruce Ellington for the final spot. But Belichick will use every option available to stash players. Gordon likely will be reinstated, but no one knows when. Thomas is coming off a torn Achilles’ tendon, and could be a decent addition in the second half of the season. Berrios isn’t ready for a roster spot but will be kept on the practice squad as Edelman insurance. And Myers is really just a placeholder; the Patriots signed three undrafted rookie receivers, and one of them will make the practice squad.
TIGHT END (2): Matt LaCosse, Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
Practice squad: Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo, Jakob Johnson (international exemption).
Analysis: This position is begging for another addition, and the Patriots should be working the trade market and scouring the waiver wire during training camp. I feel good about LaCosse making the team. I don’t feel so good about Seferian-Jenkins, who got only $50,000 in guaranteed money. ASJ is a decent blocker, but so is Izzo, and that will be one position battle to watch. Anderson is really more of a big receiver than a true tight end, so the Patriots will try to stash him on the practice squad. They get an exemption to keep Johnson as an 11th practice squad member, and of course they will use it.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8): LT Isaiah Wynn, LG Joe Thuney, C David Andrews, RG Shaq Mason, RT Marcus Cannon, OT Yodny Cajuste, G/C Hjalte Froholdt, C Tyler Gauthier.
Practice squad: OT Tyree St. Louis, OT Cole Croston.
Analysis: The top five are obvious, but the Patriots really could use another offensive tackle, even after drafting Cajuste in the third round. They usually red-shirt their offensive tackles, and there are a few veterans available in free agency that they should look at for depth. Froholdt will supplant Ted Karras as the top interior backup. And the Patriots always keep an undrafted free agent or two, and Gauthier is my choice after they gave him $70,000 guaranteed.
DEFENSIVE LINE (8): DE Michael Bennett, DE Deatrich Wise, DE Chase Winovich, DE Keionta Davis, DT Lawrence Guy, DT Mike Pennel, DT Adam Butler, DT Byron Cowart.
Analysis: The notable absence is Derek Rivers, the team’s third-round pick in 2017. Rivers has not had an easy transition to the NFL, tearing an ACL as a rookie and then playing just 78 snaps last year. I see this as a competition for one roster spot between Rivers and Davis, and I’m choosing Davis, who played 182 snaps last year and is stronger at the point of attack. The Patriots should keep looking for another big body for the middle of the defense, which could bump Cowart to the practice squad.
LINEBACKER (5): Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, John Simon, Elandon Roberts.
Practice squad: Christian Sam, Terez Hall.
Analysis: The Patriots really liked Bentley last year before a torn biceps ended his season in September, and I’m eager to see what kind of role they develop for him in his sophomore season. The only real question here is Roberts, and he could be unseated by one of the practice squad players, especially because he costs about $1.5 million more than Sam or Hall. But Roberts knows the defense, is a hard hitter, and contributes on special teams, so he will be back for one more year.
CORNERBACK (5): Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, J.C. Jackson, Duke Dawson.
Practice squad: Keion Crossen.
Analysis: The Patriots have a logjam at cornerback after drafting Williams in the second round. I settle it by trading Jonathan Jones and moving Crossen to the practice squad. Jones was a great find, and the Patriots brought him back on a restricted free agent tender worth $3.095 million. But something has to give, and Jones could fetch a decent return in a trade. The other option would be moving Dawson to safety, but the Patriots have a logjam at that position, too.
SAFETY (5): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Obi Melifonwu, Malik Gant.
Analysis: Melifonwu survives the roster bubble for now because of his elite measurables and athleticism. He’ll be a super sub as a tall cornerback (Williams insurance), safety, and special teams contributor. Gant, rated by some analysts as one of the best safeties in the 2019 draft, is another undrafted rookie who will crack the 53. He’s a hard hitter who can develop in the Chung role.
K Stephen Gostkowski, P Ryan Allen, P/K Jake Bailey, LS Joe Cardona, ST Matthew Slater, ST Brandon Bolden, ST Terrence Brooks, ST Brandon King, ST Nate Ebner.
Analysis: Keeping two punters? You better believe it! Bailey, the fifth-round pick out of Stanford, is really more of a kicking specialist, and gives Belichick more options. Belichick can use Gostkowski, 35, for field goals and shorter kickoffs, Allen for short-field precision punting, and Bailey for deep kickoffs and deep punts. The Patriots also will keep five special teams-only players, more than any other team in the NFL.