With a very tumultuous offseason, let’s take a look at who will end up on the Patriots opening day roster.
QBs (3): Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer
It’s a bit atypical for the Patriots to keep 3 quarterbacks on the roster, but given Hoyer’s not-so-significant salary and friendship with Brady, it would seem like the Pats would want to keep him. At the moment, Stidham is the future, so expect him to be a lock. Look for Danny Etling to stay on the practice squad (although don’t be surprised if he’s scooped up by some other team.
RBs (5): Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
This should be one of the more interesting position battles this offseason, with the Patriots owning an embarrassment of spoils at the running back position. Sony and White are sure-things, Harris was a semi-early draft pick and should be expected to stay. Bolden and Burkhead should be battling for a change-of-pace/special-team position, but I see Bolden getting the edge due to his long tenure with the Patriots.
WRs (6): N’Keal Harry, Julian Edelman, Phillip Dorsett, Braxton Berrios, Maurice Harris, Matthew Slater
Harry, Edelman, Dorsett, and Slater are all roster locks. If Josh Gordon can get unsuspended, add him to this list too. It should be a fascinating battle towards the bottom, with Berrios, Demaryius Thomas, Maurice Harris, Dontrelle Inman, and Jakobi Meyers all battling for a maximum of two spots. I see Berrios, who was a steal last draft but was injured all of last season, edging out one of the spots. He is a typical Pats receiver and has had a whole year to learn the system. Maurice Harris has had a stellar offseason thus far and has displayed good chemistry with Brady. Thomas, on the other hand, has a long road ahead of him recovering from a major injury and trying to pick up the hardest playbook in the league.
TEs (3): Matt Lacosse, Stephen Anderson, Ryan Izzo
Matt Lacosse was a bubble roster spot just a month ago, but with the departure of Austin Seferian-Jenkins and suspension of Ben Watson, he suddenly projects to be TE #1 heading into the 2019 season. Anderson is a good, well-rounded player. On any other team, he would be unlikely to make the roster, but with the lack of depth in New England at TE, he could end up a starter. Given the Patriots love of blocking tight ends, I see Izzo edging out Andrew Beck (who struggles with pass protection) for the third slot, but it’s really anyone’s game until Watson comes back.
O-Line (7): Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt
The Patriots roll into this season with three linemen with little to no game time experience (Wynn, Cajuste, and Froholdt), but maintain most of the men who made this unit so stout last year. I think they actually improved, as Trent Brown had some major holding issues. Karras has been on the team for years as a backup, but I envision Bill wanting to stick with the rookies.
DTs (3): Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Mike Pennell
With the under-the-radar loss of Malcolm Brown, this is perhaps the weakest spot on the roster for New England. Guy had a solid season last year and Butler is nice against the pass, but overall this is a unit that leaves something to be desired. Perhaps rookie Byron Cowart can impress in training camp and make a mark on the position.
DEs (5): Michael Bennett, Chase Winovich, John Simon, Deatrich Wise, Derek Rivers
The Pats will likely make up for the lack of talent at DT with lots of talent at DE. Bennet, Winovich, Simon, and Wise are locks. Rivers is yet to get a chance due to his injuries, but I suspect Belichick will give the former third-round pick a shot and his talent will shine through. The battle for DE #2 should be interesting, with Wise coming into the race as the favorite but Winovich plays with his heart on his sleeve and embodies the Patriot Way. Don’t be surprised if you’re seeing Winovich lining up next to Bennett more often than not.
LBs (5): Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Elandon Roberts, Jaime Collins
The Patriots are very glad to get Bentley back, who greatly impressed in the last preseason and beginning of the regular season before going down to a torn bicep. Van Noy and Roberts had stellar performances last season and Hightower is the leader of this defense. Jaime Collins was a massive offseason pickup. He has the most potential of any linebacker in the league; if he listens to Bill and does his job, he should have no trouble making the roster and creating a huge impact. Christian Sam is almost surely going to be cut, but he’s a great player and could be a good pickup by a different team.
CBs (7): Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Johnathan Jones, Duke Dawson, Keion Crossen
While New England perhaps appears a bit thin at other defensive positions, they enjoy a plethora of talent at cornerback. Gilmore is an All-Pro talent. J.C Jackson came in as an undrafted free agent last season and performed admirably as CB #2.5. Jason McCourty played above expectations in the regular season after an offseason where many speculated he would be cut. Joejuan is a cornerback with a massive physical presence who also has second-round pedigree. Duke Dawson was a second-rounder last season and could come out of nowhere this year. As for the rest, look for special teams contributions and occasional fill-ins barring injury.
Safeties (6): Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Brandon King, Obi Melifonwu
McCourty, Chung, and Harmon will be the regulars at this position, as they have been for a while. Ebner and King are two of the best special teamers in the league, so they should expect to make the team as well. Melifonwi is a bit of a dark horse, but he brings good size and solid special team ability.
Special Teamers (3): Stephen Gostkowski, Joe Cardona, Jake Bailey
Gostkowski was free agent this offseason but resigned with New England. He remains one of the best kickers in the league despite his occasional big-moment misses. Joe Cardona will be the long snapper once again. The real excitement is at punter, where Belichick went so far as to trade up for RIGHTY Jake Bailey. Taking a righty and trading up for a punter both seem very anti-Belichick, so there must be something special about this kid. Meanwhile, Ryan Allen is coming off of a pretty good season and will undoubtedly fight for his job. I see Bill going with the cheaper rookie though.
Will these predictions end up being true? Who knows. Bill is known for his unpredictability and will surely go with some of the undrafted free agents he took this season. But this list should serve as a relatively good template for what the Patriots will look like next season.