Perry's Patriots 53-man roster projection
Patriots OTAs and minicamp are finished. Players have dispersed across the country and beyond. Bill Belichick has taken the wheel of his boat VI Rings.
Just as spring has turned to summer on the Gregorian calendar, the same is true for the NFL calendar. Patriots organized workouts -- five of which were open to reporters -- are finished until the team will reconvene for training camp late next month.
Until then, that makes this as good a time as any to take what we've seen and put together another 53-man roster projection.
QUARTERBACKS (3): Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
In our last 53-man projection, Brady was left off the list as it was presumed he would be suspended for the first four games of the season. For variety's sake, and because it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Second Circuit rehears his case, we'll leave Brady on the active roster for this go-round. It will be the first time the Patriots have kept three quarterbacks on their roster since 2011, which was third-round draft choice Ryan Mallett's rookie year.
RUNNING BACKS (4): Dion Lewis, James White, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden
This group remained unchanged since the last projection. That Lewis felt healthy enough to participate in spring practices is a sign that he's trending in the right direction for Week 1. Should he land on the physically unable to perform list to start the season, that might open the door for someone like DJ Foster (a practice squad candidate) or veteran Donald Brown.
TIGHT ENDS (4): Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett, Clay Harbor, James Develin
Develin is lumped in with this group because it's the group with which he meets on a regular basis. Gronkowski and Bennett are obvious locks. While Harbor and Develin are similarly versatile, their skill sets are varied enough that the Patriots might benefit from keeping both. Michael Williams may have been a 53-man candidate, but his torn ACL -- suffered during one of the team's spring practices -- has landed him on season-ending injured reserve.
RECEIVERS (6): Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Keshawn Martin, Matthew Slater
How Edelman recovers from his second foot surgery will be worth watching. If his progress is slow, would the team place him on PUP? That would force him to sit out of the first six weeks of the season. Given his importance to the offense, even if he's slated to miss the first few weeks, it would seem that the Patriots would want to keep him on the active roster in order to get him back as quickly as possible. Aaron Dobson flashed in the spring, but he'll have to stay healthy and continue to impress through training camp in order to solidify his roster spot.
OFFENSIVE TACKLES (3): Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer, Marcus Cannon
LaAdrian Waddle could serve as an insurance piece on the edges, and he may be seen as having particular value after Solder and Vollmer struggled with injuries in 2015. He played at the left tackle spot consistently throughout spring practices, while Cannon manned the right side. If the Patriots would like two true tackles to back up their starters, they could work to make room for the former Lions lineman.
GUARDS (4): Josh Kline, Shaq Mason, Jonathan Cooper, Joe Thuney
Kline missed every on-the-field session open to reporters as he continues to recover from a shoulder injury. Last season, when healthy, he was one of the team's most consistent blockers so we'll leave him on the active list for now. Mason also missed some time this spring but eventually returned to practice. During team periods, Thuney saw plenty of work at left guard, while Cooper was stationed on the right.
CENTERS (2): Bryan Stork, David Andrews
This could end up being one of the most hotly-contested positional battles of the summer. Stork and Andrews split reps snapping to Tom Brady during spring work. Thuney also saw some time over the ball.
DEFENSIVE TACKLES (4): Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Terrance Knighton, Vincent Valentine
The Patriots benefited from using a rotation on the interior last season and could add another body to this group if they think it will keep them altogether more fresh and therefore more effective. Markus Kuhn or Frank Kearse would provide some veteran savvy should they go that route.
DEFENSIVE ENDS (6): Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Geneo Grissom, Shea McClellin
Shea McClellin gets shifted from the linebacker group (where he was in our last projection) to this one since he was seen working primarily on the edge in spring practices. This is a deep and versatile group with a variety of players who could serve as interior rushers in obvious passing situations. If Flowers and/or Grissom can make the second-year leap, and if one or two of the veteran additions pan out, this spot will be one of the team's strengths going into 2016.
LINEBACKERS (3): Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jonathan Freeny
This is perhaps the thinnest group on the roster and an indication of how traditional linebackers fit into today's NFL defenses where sub-packages are the norm. Do the Patriots feel like they can get away with just three players here to go along with a handful of safeties? Or will they add a player like Ramon Humber -- the first free agent the team signed this offseason -- to play special teams and help back up Hightower and Collins?
CORNERS (5): Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts
Undrafted rookie Jonathan Jones, one of the fastest players in this year's entire rookie class, would be a tough omission here. He had an eye-opening spring and could potentially earn a spot if he continues that momentum into training camp. Should he play well enough this summer that the Patriots don't think they'd be able to keep him on their practice squad, perhaps they'd be willing to try to stash Darryl Roberts there to keep him in-house as insurance. This is one of those positions where it seems as though a team can never have too many capable bodies.
SAFETIES (6): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner, Brandon King
New safeties coach Steve Belichick has inherited perhaps the deepest positional group on the roster. Nate Ebner missed all of the team's spring work as he vies for a spot on the U.S. Olympic rugby team. If he makes the squad, he could miss a significant portion of training camp.
SPECIALISTS (3): Ryan Allen, Stephen Gostkowski, Joe Cardona
Cardona was given permission to participate in Patriots mandatory minicamp practices, but he missed the OTA sessions that were open to reporters. Indications are that he'll be eligible to play come Week 1. If for some reason that does not come to pass, veteran snapper Christian Yount would be his replacement.