The Patriots have officially widdled their team down to 53 players, though their roster construction is far from over. Between Kayshon Boutte locking up a spot with consistent growth over the summer, the dire injury situation at tackle, and Ameer Speed’s special teams ability leading to seven corners being rostered, New England had to make some unconventional decisions in the short term.
The roster will undergo multiple changes as players are placed on injured reserve with designations to return, and there’s always the chance someone on waivers piques the Patriots’ interest or a player they hope to keep on the practice squad leaves to spark a change in strategy
For now, let’s take a look at who the team kept, who was cut, and who is most likely to return.
For clarification, a player is waived when they have fewer than four accrued seasons, meaning they can be claimed by another team. A player with four or more accrued seasons is released, meaning they can sign with whomever they want with no waiting period.
Released: Trace McSorley
Waived: Bailey Zappe, Malik Cunningham
According to MassLive Sports’ Karen Guregian, the Patriots hope to get both of their waived quarterbacks on the practice squad.
Bailey Zappe was today’s biggest surprise cut after being taken in the 4th round of last year’s draft and filling in admirably when Mac Jones was injured last season. That said, he struggled with progression reads in Bill O’Brien’s offense and his accuracy was inconsistent once pads came on in training camp.
I had Malik Cunningham on the practice squad in my roster projections because he struggled as a receiver this summer and didn’t stand out on special teams. I believe his future in the NFL is at quarterback, where he stood out in limited flashes. Hopefully, Cunningham will transition now that practices are closed to the media, which should decrease the risk of him being poached by a quarterback-needy team.
Running Back (2)
Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott
Released: Ty Montgomery II
Waived: J.J. Taylor, Kevin Harris, C.J. Marable
Traded: Pierre Strong Jr. (Browns for Tyrone Wheatley Jr.)
I thought Pierre Strong was a virtual lock as a 4th-round pick last season with explosive ability as a ball carrier, and I believe he would’ve made the roster if New England wasn’t so desperate for tackle depth.
Considering Ty Montgomery didn’t suit up against the Titans and there’s no chance the Patriots enter the season with two backs, I believe he’ll be re-signed once players are placed on short-term injured reserve.
J.J. Taylor seemed like a lock to spend another season on the team’s practice squad but Karen Guregian reported he could look for a fresh start elsewhere.
Kevin Harris spent much of his rookie season on the practice squad and I don’t think he showed enough this preseason to change that.
Wide Receiver (6)
DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Demario Douglas, Tyquan Thornton, Kayshon Boutte
Season-Ending Injured Reserve: Tre Nixon
Waived: Thyrick Pitts
Officially official https://t.co/OI7NTiudHN
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) August 29, 2023
Demario Douglas seemed like a roster lock early in training camp but fellow sixth-rounder Kayshon Boutte was on the bubble for most of the summer. After stacking good practices and his long touchdown catch and run against the Packers, Boutte proved himself too valuable to risk putting on waivers and played just one brief drive in Tennessee.
Tyquan Thornton will likely be placed on short-term injured reserve as he nurses a shoulder injury suffered during the second joint practice in Green Bay.
Thyrick Pitts needs to improve his route-running and work against press coverage but seems like a near-lock for the practice squad after flashing in practices, particularly with Tre Nixon out for the season.
Tight End (2)
Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki
Released: Anthony Firkser
Waived: Matt Sokol, Scotty Washington, Johnny Lumpkin
No surprises here.
I’d expect at least one of Anthony Firkser and Matt Sokol to return to the practice squad, though only Sokol was present for today’s practice.
Offensive Tackle (5)
Trent Brown, Calvin Anderson, Sidy Sow, Tyrone Wheatley Jr., Vederian Lowe
Season-Ending Injured Reserve: Conor McDermott
Waived: Andrew Stueber, Micah Vanterpool
Calvin Anderson returning from the non-football injury was a huge development for a spot desperate for veteran depth. He’s been at his best when lined up on the left side in the NFL, so it will be interesting to see how his return affects Trent Brown.
Conor McDermott hasn’t been seen in a while, and the team trading for two tackles signaled he could be out for an extended period of time.
Tyrone Wheatley and Vederian Lowe are long, athletic tackles who excel as run blockers but are still projected as pass protectors. While they can play either side of the line, I think Wheatley is best suited on the right and Lowe is best suited on the left. They shouldn’t be called upon to start with Anderson back in the mix but provide better depth than New England’s other, less experienced options.
Both Bill Belichick and Matt Groh have alluded to this essentially being Andrew Stueber’s rookie year after he missed all of last season. He struggled mightily at left tackle but could be a better fit if moved to the right side or kicked inside.
Interior Offensive Line (6)
David Andrews, Mike Onwenu, Cole Strange, Riley Reiff, Atonio Mafi, Jake Andrews
Released: James Ferentz
Waived: Bill Murray, Kody Russey, Chasen Hines
I’m listing Riley Reiff at guard until we see him back on the edge, particularly with Anderson back in the rotation. I think the veteran, who was injured against the Titans and hasn’t been seen since is a candidate for short-term injured reserve.
James Ferentz is basically the Terminator in New England…he’ll be back.
Bill Murray and Kody Russey should return to their homes on the practice squad but Chasen Hines removed a photo of himself in a Patriots uniform from his Twitter picture, which could signal he’s looking for an opportunity elsewhere.
Interior Defensive Line (5)
Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy Sr., Christian Barmore, Daniel Ekuale, Sam Roberts
Released: Carl Davis Jr.
Waived: Jeremiah Pharms Jr., Justus Tavai
Carl Davis’ release was a surprise externally but he’s expressed on social media that he didn’t feel he did enough to earn a spot. It will be interesting to see how New England addresses the nose tackle spot, as Godchaux is the only remaining fit in the role.
Thought Sam Roberts put an exclamation point on a really good preseason last night
Continued to flash dominance as a run defender, showed great effort as a pass rusher, and even when he made mistakes he didn't take himself out of the play pic.twitter.com/AaPTlQWju8
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) August 26, 2023
Sam Roberts had a productive preseason and rotated with the top defensive line at times in camp. He’s been a staple of my roster projections and absolutely earned a spot as a run-stuffing Deatrich Wise-type.
Edge Defender (4)
Matthew Judon, Deatrich Wise, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Keion White
Physically Unable to Perform: Trey Flowers
Waived: Ronnie Perkins, Carson Wells
Ronnie Perkins reminded me of Anfernee Jennings last night. Set firm edges vs run, knifed and looped inside to cause havoc in the backfield, and played with a hot motor
Also showed awareness of the QB's depth and looked comfortable dropping into short zones + disrupting routes pic.twitter.com/YnF75rnAPp
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) August 26, 2023
I didn’t think Ronnie Perkins would make the team in any capacity until his outstanding performance in the preseason finale. He was injured in that performance and missed the practice on Sunday but was back on the field today, signaling he’ll be back on the practice squad. Here’s hoping he can put together a career resurgence after still not having played an NFL snap.
Ja’Whaun Bentley, Jahlani Tavai, Mack Wilson Sr., Marte Mapu, Chris Board
Released: Calvin Munson
Waived: Joe Giles-Harris, Diego Fagot
I thought Mack Wilson was a cut candidate due to his continued struggles diagnosing plays but he’s the best athlete at the position besides Marte Mapu (who’s actually a safety) and his added weight this offseason showed in his work against blockers.
Love Calvin Munson's recognition, physicality, and effort
Really easy guy to root for pic.twitter.com/Y0h46nikuK
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) August 26, 2023
MassLive’s Mark Daniels reported that Calvin Munson should be re-signed once players are placed on short-term IR, which makes sense considering how well he played in the preseason, his roles on special teams, and the amount of work he got with the top defense in training camp.
Joe Giles-Harris was at practice today, so he’ll likely be back on the practice squad. He had an interception, a tackle for loss, and a takedown on special teams against the Titans.
Christian Gonzalez, Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, Myles Bryant, Shaun Wade, Ameer Speed
Season-Ending Injured Reserve: Isaiah Bolden
Waived: Quandre Mosely, Rodney Randle Jr.
Isaiah Bolden being out for the season will give him a chance to continue recovering if necessary and catch up to the speed of the NFL, which he struggled with at times during the summer.
Fellow late-round rookie Ameer Speed will be a key special teamer this season. He also looked solid in limited reps at corner during preseason and even covered tight ends at times.
Shaun Wade vs John Metchie pic.twitter.com/y7a8zteOaC
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) August 11, 2023
Shaun Wade quietly had an impressive preseason and showed impressive versatility, playing in the slot, on the boundary, and even at safety. When I asked Wade about his improved play, he credited improved confidence.
Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, Jalen Mills
Waived: Joshuah Bledsoe, Brad Hawkins
Joshuah Bledsoe was someone I had on my projections because the team seems to value his versatility but he didn’t make enough plays in preseason or camp to earn a spot. He and Brad Hawkins should be back on the practice squad.
Traded: Nick Folk (Titans)
Chad Ryland struggled in the wind at times this summer but the team clearly has faith that he can correct those issues. He has an outstanding leg and can handle kickoff duties.
New England likely settled for a 2025 seventh-round pick so Nick Folk could choose his destination. He was a model Patriot during his time on the team and gets to be closer to his family as a Tennessee Titan.
Waived: Corliss Waitman
Bryce Baringer had a rough patch in the middle of the preseason slate but bounced back in a big way against the Packers and hasn’t looked back.
Corliss Waitman could return to the practice squad to provide different scout team looks as a left-footed punter, as well as be insurance in case Baringer has a lapse in confidence.
Long Snapper (1)
Was there ever any doubt? (No.)
Coverage Specialist (2)
Matthew Slater, Brenden Schooler
Physically Unable to Perform: Cody Davis
Waived: Raleigh Webb*
The team seems to like Raleigh Webb, as he was a key special teamer last season. He’ll probably be back on the practice squad as a depth piece who can be elevated if another core coverage player suffers an injjury.