The Patriots made splashes in both the free agency period and the 2017 NFL Draft this offseason to augment an already loaded roster that won the Super Bowl in February. While we continue to watch the developments of these players and try to figure out how well they’ll fit in their new environs, the other side of the equation always is, who do they replace?
There is always movement on the Patriots roster and Bill Belichick has always shown that he’ll cut a player a year early rather than wait until a year too late. Even some of his favorite players that he’s coached will eventually be shown the door, that is part of the reason why he continues to be so successful year after year.
So, with that in mind, the competition in training camp this season should be pretty intense and here are a few veterans that may be facing getting a visit from the “Turk” this summer.
Danny Amendola: His name is on the list seemingly every year, so eventually we’ll be right, or he’ll retire in another few years before he’s shown the door. Another season, another re-done contract. Amendola has shown to be a tough, reliable wide receiver who while not putting up great numbers, saves his best for big plays at crunch time.
With a very deep roster at the wide receiver position this season, Amendola will invariably face the questions if he’ll get axed this summer. With Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, and Malcolm Mitchell already penciled in, the competition will be there for Amendola to produce for the fifth WR position.
But Amendola has worked his way into QB Tom Brady’s circle of trust which is no small feat. If he stays healthy, he should be able to fend off his competitors for another season. Then come late February, he’ll be the subject of these rumors again.
Brandon Bolden: One of the more intriguing guys on the roster, Bolden is a core Special Teams player on a roster that already has a bunch of them. Bolden was a free agent this spring and signed a new deal to return. But his roster spot is anything close to a given this year.
With the additions of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, the Patriots backfield with James White, Dion Lewis, D.J. Foster, and UDFA LeShun Daniels as well as fullbacks James Develin and Glenn Gronkowski makes the RB position stacked. Bolden may find himself a victim of the numbers game. With RB position in mind…
Dion Lewis: Wait?! What?! Don’t be shocked if Lewis, who was injured in 2015 and came back midway thru the 2016 season is under the gun this summer. He showed glimpses of what he’s capable of last season, but he wasn’t all the way back from his injury (Torn ACL) last year.
Now, more than a year removed from his rehab, Lewis will have to show the shiftiness that made him a Swiss Army Knife of the Patriots offense, a guy who can do a little bit of everything. James White took over his role last year and was simply outstanding in the Super Bowl, parlaying that into a contract extension.
Lewis faces the added competition of Burkhead, Gillislee (who should be taking the LeGarrette Blount role) and second year player D.J. Foster, who is a dangerous receiver with the ball in his hands. Lewis’ spot if far from a certainty either.
Linebackers Jonathan Freeny, Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy: Any of these three could be cut this summer, possibly even more than one. Freeny was a starter at the beginning of 2016 and a favorite of Bill Belichick. Freeny’s base salary is $1.8 million this season, he’s always been a stellar Special Team’s performer but his ability to contribute on defense, or lack thereof may be something to watch this summer.
McClellin was picked up last season and the team seemed to struggle to find him a role at first until they put him in a sub-package role, but while he’s not as good in coverage or as a pass rusher as Van Noy, nor the run stuffer that Elandon Roberts is, he can do a little bit of each. And he’s a guy that can slide down to defensive end for a few snaps as well. Versatility being a big thing with the coaches but will it be enough?
Van Noy was a nice pickup from the Lions last season, he showed that he could rush the passer and drop into coverage with good production. While not great against the run, he’s the best bet to remain this season, but will have to have a good summer as well.
All three will face some competition from second year player Roberts as well as UDFAs Harvey Langi and Brooks Ellis. Langi is an intriguing player who looked fantastic as a junior in 2015 before his coaches moved him out of position to DE last year. The Patriots paid him $100,000 guaranteed money which is a lot for an UDFA, so they have some hopes that he could compete for a roster spot.
Brandon King/Nate Ebner: These two players are safeties officially but are big special teams’ contributors. Their level of play has continued to be high and both are valuable pieces of the puzzle. So why are they on here? Numbers.
With the Patriots possibly keeping more WRs or RBs on the roster this season, the numbers dictate that someone is going to have to be cut to make room. The bottom of the roster will be an intriguing place to watch this summer.
Neither plays many snaps on defense, although Ebner does fill in on occasion in short yardage and goal line packages, and the Patriots are pretty much set at safety. Their value lies on STs but there are only so many spots on the roster that can be penciled in, each must have a good summer to stick although I’d give Ebner the edge here.
Two other names that can be added to the list are tackles LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming although the latter seems a good bet to stick this season.
The Patriots will have some great positional battles during training camp this summer. The tough part of having a stocked roster is that you always have to let go of some good veteran and rookie players.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2017 Patriots Offseason 2017 Patriots Season 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Brandon Bolden Brandon King Danny Amendola Dion Lewis Jonathan Freeny Kyle Van Noy LaGarrette Blount Nate Ebner New England Patriots NFL Shea McClellin Tom Brady