Patriots 53-man roster projection: Space for Jamie Collins?
The Patriots have made a handful of additions since May 7 has come and gone. At this point in the year, any free-agent adds won't count against the compensatory pick formula. For a team that looks like it'll have four comp picks next year, including two thirds, that's significant.
Jared Veldheer, the soon-to-be 32-year-old veteran, could end up being the most important acquisition of the bunch. With young tackles Yodny Cajuste and Isaiah Wynn coming back from injury, this is the second straight season where the Patriots will come in with questions at tackle. Depending on health, Veldheer could end up playing a key role early.
Jamie Collins, meanwhile, wouldn't have counted against the comp-pick formula because he was released by Cleveland, but his return to New England raises some interesting questions about the Patriots defense and how he might be used if he makes the roster. And that's a not-so-small "if." One of the key questions in putting this list together is wondering if the Patriots would rather an athletic matchup weapon with some pass-rush ability (Collins), or more of a true first- and second-down thumper to play off the line (Elandon Roberts)? Roberts had his best season as a pro last year. His style and Collins' are just about polar opposites.
Here's our post-May 7 stab -- another way-too-early guess -- at the Patriots' 53-man roster . . .
Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
This remains, in my opinion, the best way to go for the Patriots in 2019. That could change, of course. If Jarrett Stidham looks like a legitimate backup candidate through the spring and summer, the team could roll with two here. That's what they did after Jimmy Garoppolo was drafted. It was what they did after Ryan Mallett was drafted (bumping Hoyer off the roster). If there's a player the Patriots desperately want to keep on the roster but they feel they don't have room on the 53, then Hoyer could end up on the outside looking in. However, the reason he's here at the moment is because Stidham is an unknown and because the team has already made a significant financial commitment to keep him; he's guaranteed about $1.5 million this year.
RUNNING BACK (5)
Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden
No surprises here. It'll be interesting to see how the team works in Damien Harris. Injuries could dictate how often he's used — both Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead missed significant time last year, and Jeremy Hill missed almost the entire season — but Harris could be worthy of work even if everyone's healthy.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Phillip Dorsett, Dontrelle Inman, Braxton Berrios, Matthew Slater
If Demaryius Thomas begins the year on PUP as he works his way back from a torn Achilles, and if Josh Gordon remains suspended, there are still myriad options at this position for the 53-man roster. But how many open spots are there? Edelman and Harry are locks, of course. After that there could be an interesting competition between Dorsett, Inman, Berrios, Maurice Harris and undrafted rookies Jakobi Meyers and Ryan Davis. It looks wide open. Berrios seems to have a pretty good shot at the roster given his year in the system and his punt-return ability. Davis has also returned punts. Inman, if he gets up to speed quickly, could fill the spot left vacant by Chris Hogan's departure.
TIGHT END (4)
Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, James Develin
Here's another group where questions abound after a series of veteran acquisitions this offseason. Serferian-Jenkins might have the most talent of the bunch. Watson and LaCosse also feel like good bets to make it -- in part because we know so little about younger options Ryan Izzo and undrafted rookie Andrew Beck. The team will likely keep International Pathway program addition Jakob Johnson as a fullback on the p-squad. He doesn't count against the 90-man roster at the moment, and the Patriots will receive an exemption to keep him as an 11th practice-squad member during the season. (All four AFC East teams will have an 11th practice-squad player from overseas this year. Those players can't be activated during the season.)
Isaiah Wynn, Marcus Cannon, Jared Veldheer
Will Yodny Cajuste be healthy enough to serve as the swing option starting in Week 1? If not, he could end up on the shelf to start the season. Wynn's health also bears watching this spring and summer. The Jared Veldheer addition makes all kinds of sense. In all likelihood, the veteran with starting NFL experience will at some point need to contribute quality snaps. The Patriots needed four different starting tackles to get to the Super Bowl in 2017. Last year Wynn was injured before he made it to the regular season.
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE (5)
David Andrews, Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason, Ted Karras, Hjalte Froholdt
The Patriots kept five interior linemen last year and could do the same again this season. In this scenario, Froholdt could end up in the same role James Ferentz held in 2018. This may be one too many in the end, but in an offense that is so predicated on the running game -- and on protecting the quarterback -- having capable depth here is critical.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE (4)
Lawrence Guy, Mike Pennel, Adam Butler, David Parry
It'll be interesting to see if Byron Cowart, the fifth-rounder out of Maryland, can challenge for a roster spot. He has intriguing physical traits that should help him transition from college to the pros. But Parry may be the more valued option as the bigger-bodied run defender (he's listed at 317 pounds) with NFL experience. Pennel and Guy are locks, and Butler's case for a roster spot is strong after a productive year as an interior rusher in 2018.
Michael Bennett, Deatrich Wise, John Simon, Chase Winovich
The Patriots kept both Derek Rivers and Adrian Clayborn (another sub-rusher) on the roster last year, but it's looking like Winovich will have a grip on that job in 2019. Keionta Davis could have a crack at a gig here as a big-bodied first and second-down edge-setter, but he lands on the practice squad in this instance. Same goes for Rivers. How the linebacker group shakes out could impact how this edge group looks. Dont'a Hightower and/or Kyle Van Noy could end up spending significant time on the edge based on the team's off-the-line personnel.
Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja'Whaun Bentley, Jamie Collins, Brandon King
With Bentley back in the mix after missing most of his rookie season, that may free up a couple of these players to play on the line more often. Collins isn't guaranteed a spot, but I think he's an interesting matchup player in the passing game for a team that wants to play primarily man-to-man. As good as Patriots coverage players were last year, they had issues at times against tight ends and running backs. Collins' athleticism -- which might make him worthy of a niche passing-down role -- could be part of the solution in 2019. King recently signed an extension and will be a core special-teamer.
Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, Joejuan Williams, Duke Dawson
Hard to make any cuts here, but there were simply too many bodies to keep everyone deserving of a spot. Keion Crossen was the last man out in this instance. He has talent as a special-teamer, and his skill set there may earn him a job. Crossen's role would be more defined than someone like Duke Dawson's at this juncture, but as a second-round pick Dawson gets the nod. Seventh-round corner Ken Webster, an eye-popping athlete, might be someone the team could keep on the practice squad.
Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Terrence Brooks, Nate Ebner
Another strong group, loaded with veterans. It might make sense to try to hold onto a younger player here in case injuries strike, but McCourty and Chung have proven to be incredibly durable throughout their careers. Obi Melifonwu would be worth considering as a practice-squad candidate thanks to his rare size and athleticism. Same goes for Malik Gant, an undrafted rookie, who looks like an in-the-box option at this position.
Stephen Gostkowski, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona
It might be difficult to part ways with Ryan Allen following his winning performance in Super Bowl LIII, but taking Bailey in the fifth round (and trading up to get him) serves as an indication that the Patriots are open to moving on from the veteran lefty in favor of a younger player with a big leg. Remember, it looked as though Allen had some legitimate competition last year when the Patriots brought aboard Corey Bojorquez. Bailey also might be able to provide the team with some value as a kickoff specialist.
PRACTICE SQUAD (11)
WR Ryan Davis, WR Jakobi Meyers, TE Ryan Izzo, TE Andrew Beck, FB Jakob Johnson,* OL Cole Croston, EDGE Derek Rivers, EDGE Keionta Davis, DT Byron Cowart, LB Christian Sam, CB Ken Webster
The Patriots double-up here at positions where they're relatively thin. Ryan Davis and Meyers are slot players with upside -- and Meyers is big enough to play outside -- at the receiver spot. Along the edge, Rivers and Davis would give the Patriots a pair of players with NFL experience who could step in and serve a role if called upon. Keeping two tight ends also makes plenty of sense with so many questions at that position. Keion Crossen, the last player off, likely wouldn't make it through waivers. Remember: All these players would need to clear waivers before they end up as options to re-sign with the Patriots practice squad.