Players are now starting to prepare for the battle of a roster spot as depth will be tight. Bill Belichick has proven to not shy away from cutting a beloved veteran or a young talent. Who will make the Patriots 2021 roster? Let’s go position-by-position.
Questions loom as Stephon Gilmore was absent for the first day of minicamp for non-weather related issues unlike other players who were absent. He is reportedly not going to be attending the rest of minicamp and will be accepting the fine of just over $93k.
Quarterback (3): Cam Newton, Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer
The Cam vs Mac conversation is for another day; it is safe to say both will make the Patriots roster. The real competition lives between Brian Hoyer and Jarrett Stidham. Stidham has done little to push himself up the depth chart during his Patriots career. Not only did Stidham’s performance lead to the late signing of Cam Newton, he wasn’t even named the starter when Newton was out. Brian Hoyer is a very strong practice player in New England. Hoyer beat Stidham out in camp and it would not be a surprise if he pushes him out of Foxboro. Cap Space Cleared ~$640,000 (Stidham cut)
Running Back (5): Damien Harris, James White, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, Brandon Bolden
The writing is on the wall for Sony Michel: The Patriots declined to pick up his fifth year option and the team drafted Rhamondre Stevenson as the next power back. The backfield will likely star Damien Harris with James White in a prominent role. Stevenson can thrive in goal line/short yardage situations with J.J. Taylor as a change of pace back. Taylor has stepped up this offseason as the Running-backs missed most of OTA’s. Bolden may not be a lock for the team, but he brings a reliable presence in special teams. Financially, it is more likely for Michel to be traded than cut.
Wide Receiver (7): Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, N’Keal Harry, Gunner Olszewski, Tre Nixon, Isaiah Zuber
No surprise cuts, but a surprise make nonetheless. Patriot fans may welcome Zuber with a ringing “who?” but the coaching staff is very fond of Zuber. Although Isaiah Zuber was rarely utilized little in 2020, he brings a lot of pop in practice. N’Keal Harry staying on the team is more of a financial reason than a football reason. However, if New England decides to trade the 1st round disappointment, it would free up more cap space.
Tight End (3): Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Devin Asiasi
Henry and Smith are probably the biggest roster locks as they both will be heavily featured in this offense. Devin Asiasi showed some flashes in camp last season and could benefit from a backseat in 2021. It does not seem worth keeping more than three tight ends on the roster for a Dalton Keene or Matt LaCosse. It would not be a surprise to see them in a Patriots uniform again, but hard to imagine they make the final cut. Cap Space Cleared ~$700,000 (LaCosse cut) ~$640,000 (Keane Cut)
Fullback (1): Jakob Johnson
No explanation needed.
Offensive Line (8): Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Trent Brown, Ted Karras, Justin Herron, William Sherman
Expect the Patriots to have a lot of depth here for 2021. Tackles Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown have a lengthy history of injuries and David Andrews in no shoe in for a full season. The team needs pieces like Ted Karras and Justin Herron throughout the season.
Outside Linebacker (3): Kyle Van Noy, Matthew Judon, Ronnie Perkins
A shock to some seeing Chase Winovich not make the roster. There is no denying the wolverine’s talent (led NE in sacks in 2020), but the fit seems to be limited. Winovich is a liability in the run game and he will not benefit from the selection of Ronnie Perkins. Perkins is a very similar style of player to Winovich, except Perkins was much more effective defending the run. The Patriots could decide to cut Winovich, but it appears more likely that he would be traded. There are many NFL teams who could make Chase a double digit sack rusher, it just won’t be in New England. Cap Space Cleared ~$600,000 (Winovich Traded)
Inside Linebacker (3): Dont’a Hightower, Josh Uche, Raekwon McMillian
The cuts of Bentley and Jennings may seem premature, but Bill Belichick will waste no time with his Linebacker group. The team has essentially added three NFL starting linebackers, a depth piece positioned for meaningful snaps, a rookie considered to be a draft day steal. Not to mention Josh Uche, who the team expects to play a much larger role in 2021. Bentley and Jennings did not play well in starting roles and it is likely that Perkins, Uche, and McMillian are already ahead of them on the depth chart. Cap Space Cleared ~$850,000 (Bentley Cut) $590,000 (Jennings Cut)
Defensive Line (5): Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Henry Anderson, Christian Barmore, Deatrich Wise Jr.
Bill Belichick has put a lot into this pass rush and defensive line. He clearly was tired of seeing his defense generate little pressure, exhibiting an inability to stop the run. It is likely the team will frequently mix up the formations with these five.
Safety (5): Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Devin McCourty, Brandon King, Joshua Bledsoe
Brandon King will most likely not play any meaningful snaps a safety, but that is not to say he won’t have a role on this team. Belichick is a big fan of King and what he brings to special teams. Injuries have put a hold on King’s Patriots career, but hopefully his best football is ahead of him. It is very possible that defensive back Joejuan Williams is the odd man out this year. With Dugger and Phillips in premiere roles and Jalen Mills looking to earn a sizable portion of the snaps, Williams adds little value to the defense. Cap Space Cleared ~$300,000 (Williams Cut)
Cornerback (5): Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, Jalen Mills
It is in the Patriots best interest to keep and extend Gilmore and Jackson. The secondary remains to be one of the strongest units and football. With the additions to the pass rush, it is going to be a long day for young Quarterbacks. Myles Bryant continues to scrap on the roster and is primed for a bigger role in 2021.