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Patriots News 05-21, Early 53-Man Roster Projection

Steve Balestrieri
Steve Balestrieri on Twitter
May 21, 2023 at 5:00 am ET

Patriots News 05-21, Early 53-Man Roster Projection

🕑 Read Time: 8 minutes

Good morning, and here are our Sunday Patriots news and notes for this week.

This is the quiet time for Patriots and NFL on-field news as the media or the fanbase does not attend the team’s offseason workouts yet. 

However, the NFL lost a giant both on and off the field this week with the passing of the legendary running back Jim Brown. He played nine years and led the NFL in rushing for eight. Brown was named to the Pro Bowl every season and was a First Team All-Pro eight times.

Brown was the NFL’s MVP three times, leading the Browns to an NFL Championship in 1964. He was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame, the NFL Hall of Fame, and the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. 

But his work as a civil rights activist was perhaps even more important than his work on the football field, helping inner-city youth find a path out of the streets. He also had a long career as an actor.

Brown passed away at age 87, surrounded by family members and loved ones.

Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News: 

Yodny Cajuste: The Patriots released the offensive tackle, their last remaining draft pick from the 2019 draft class. Cajuste appeared in just 17 games with five starts in his career with the Patriots. Three of those starts were in 2022. 

According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the release of Cajuste will save the Patriots $2.74 million in salary cap space. With the additions of Calvin Anderson and Reilly Reiff in free agency, as well as drafting Sidy Sow, who has experience as both a tackle and guard, the writing was on the wall for Cajuste, who the Patriots drafted in the 3rd Round of the 2019 NFL Draft. 

Justus Tavai: Just hours after releasing Cajuste, the Patriots signed the younger brother of Patriots linebacker Jahlani after he had been invited to try out at the Patriots rookie minicamp.

Tavai stands at 6’1, 290, and played defensive end at San Diego State University after transferring from Hawaii. He recorded 37 tackles (17 solo), with 5.5 TFL to go along with 3.5 sacks, a pass defensed, and an interception. He becomes the fourth UDFA to join the team this year, joining quarterback Malik Cunningham, tight end Johnny Lumpkin and linebacker Jourdan Heilig.

Mike Tomlin: The Steelers head coach was on the Rich Eisen Show this week, and he was asked about the trade with the Patriots to leapfrog the Jets during the NFL Draft. Tomlin explained that there was a run at tackle, and the Steelers were looking at Georgia’s Broderick Jones, who they believed that the Jets were also wanting. 

Pittsburgh got on the phone with New England, and the deal was quickly struck. Tomlin not only got the player that they wanted but kept the Jets from doing so. Thus adding to the enmity between Belichick and the Jets.

“I’m not gonna delve into the relationship between New England and the Jets. Let’s just say I’m glad we found a partner,” Tomlin said. “I’ll put it this way; there wasn’t a lot of hesitation on New England’s end.”

Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Russ is taking some time off. However, Derek and I broke down the schedule this week.

Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that especially Francis isn’t is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens. 

Early 53-Man Roster Projection —

The 2023 NFL Draft is complete, and the initial 4-man UDFA class has been signed, so the roster is beginning to take shape. Now is when the work begins, albeit slowly on the field, as the coaches begin the installation of the playbook and the players, especially the new ones, try to learn the playbook. 

So, here is my first …and early 53-man roster projection, mid-May edition 

Quarterbacks (2):

Mac Jones
Bailey Zappe

Out: Trace McSorley, Malik Cunningham

This is a no-brainer right now as the Patriots, despite rumors to the contrary prior to the draft, have committed to Jones for 2023. Zappe performed well in place of Jones when he was hurt last year. Cunningham would be a perfect scout team QB, given the athletic QBs the team will face. McSorley could also find himself there as veteran insurance. 

Running Back (4): 

Rhamondre Stevenson
Ty Montgomery
Pierre Strong
James Robinson

Out: Kevin Harris, JJ Taylor

The Patriots normally keep four running backs, but the health of both Montgomery and Robinson will bear watching. They’ll be vying with Harris in a three-way competition for two roster spots. But this could end up with any combination. For now, this stands. 

Harris would end up on the PS with this projection. He is a between-the-tackles power runner, while Robinson (if he’s healthy), can do that as well as being a good receiver out of the backfield. 

Wide Receivers (5):

DeVante Parker
Tyquan Thornton
Kendrick Bourne
JuJu Smith-Schuster
Demario Douglas

Out: Keyshon Boutte, Tre Nixon

The first four names are pretty straightforward, and they are expected to make the team at this point unless a trade materializes. I really like the potential of Boutte, especially where they took him in the draft. However, there are questions about his health and mental makeup. He could earn a spot on the team or be gone. If he has a good camp, he could be placed on the PS to develop. 

Douglas is an intriguing prospect who, despite his small stature, could become the next dynamic slot receiver on the Patriots. His explosiveness with the ball in his hands will be an interesting aspect to watch.

Tight Ends (2):

Hunter Henry
Mike Gesicki

Out: Matt Sokol, Scotty Washington, Johnny Lumpkin

No surprise here. The team goes with two TEs and stashes all three of the cuts on the practice squad.  The Patriots reportedly like Washington; he and Sokol were call-ups from the PS last year. Lumpkin offers blocking expertise in the running game.

Offensive Line (9):

Trent Brown
Cole Strange
David Andrews
Mike Onwenu
Riley Reiff
Calvin Anderson
Conor McDermott
Sidy Sow
Atonio Mafi

Out: Jake Andrews, James Ferentz, Kody Russey, Chasen Hines, Bill Murray, Andrew Stueber

The team wasn’t very deep at the offensive line position a year ago, so they added Anderson and Reiff in free agency while adding Andrews, Sow, and Mafi in the draft. The belief here is that Andrews is the heir apparent to David Andrews at center. But this year, they’ll either stash him on the PS, or he may develop a case of the “Foxboro Flu.” 

I wouldn’t rule out Steuber just yet; he, Ferentz, and Hines are candidates for the PS. But Sow has the versatility to fill in at guard or tackle. Will Ferentz survive another year as a depth guard/center? The feeling here is, initially, yes.

Defensive Line (7): 

Christian Barmore
Keion White
Davon Godchaux
Deatrich Wise
Lawrence Guy
Carl Davis
Justus Tavai

Out: Daniel Ekuale, Sam Roberts, Jeremiah Pharms 

I’m not sure that Tavai beats out Ekuale here, but it makes for good conversation at this early juncture of the season. Ekuale has been a decent interior pass rusher on obvious passing downs. I’m curious this season to see how much Lawrence Guy has left in the tank. Davis is a back-up nose tackle to Davon Godchaux, so he should be safe unless they bring in someone else. 

Barmore should be making a big jump in 2023, White and Wise should provide good pressure from the edge. White can also play upright as an outside backer. 

Edge/Linebacker (8):

Matthew Judon
Josh Uche
Anfernee Jennings
Ja’Whaun Bentley
Jahlani Tavai
Marte Mapu
Raekwon McMillan
Chris Board

Out: Ronnie Perkins, Olakunle Fatukasi, Mack Wilson, Terez Hall, Jourdan Heilig

The team will start with three edge players (Judon, Uche, and Jennings), but as I mentioned above, White can also play on the edge. This is a make-or-break year for Ronnie Perkins, a player I’ve been hoping to see contribute but has yet to take the field. He has to have a very good camp, if he wants to beat out Jennings who has contributed.

At first, I was a bit skeptical about where Mapu would fit in, but he is so physical on the field and can be used in coverage or as a spy on a QB. I think he will see the field this year at a minimum with special teams. So, Wilson and McMillan are fighting for one spot. McMillan is more a downhill player, while Wilson’s forte is in coverage. Both contribute on STs. I’m going with the team keeping Mapu and McMillan here.  If you heard Bill Belichick talk about Board last year, you know he isn’t going anywhere.

Cornerbacks (5):

Christian Gonzalez
Jonathan Jones
Marcus Jones
Jack Jones
Myles Bryant

Out: Isaiah Bolden, Ameer Speed, Shaun Wade, Quandre Mosely, Rodney Randle, Tae Hayes

No real surprises here, the three Jones and Bryant return and with the addition of Gonzalez, their top pick in the draft, it boosts the depth and versatility of the group. I look for Jack and Marcus Jones to make a nice Year 2 jump. 

Safeties (5):

Kyle Dugger
Adrian Phillips
Jabrill Peppers
Jalen Mills
Joshuah Bledsoe

Out: Brad Hawkins

The Patriots have a very deep and versatile group of safeties. Even with the retirement of Devin McCourty, they are still very deep. Moving Mills from CB to Safety makes sense. He can play the deep part of the field or rotate with Dugger to take advantage of the latter’s speed and athleticism. This is arguably the deepest position of the roster. 

Special Teams (6): 

Chad Ryland (K)
Bryce Baringer (P)
Joe Cardona (LS)
Matthew Slater (Gunner/Coverage)
Cody Davis (Coverage)
Brenden Schooler (Gunner/Coverage)

Out: Nick Folk, Corliss Waitman, Tucker Addington, DaMarcus Mitchell, Calvin Munson, Raleigh Webb 

By using a 4th round pick on Ryland, the team is saying that it fully expects him to replace Nick Folk who has been terrific during his time with the Patriots. But he’s going to have to earn it. Folk has been fantastic inside of 50 yards during his time here. This should be a great camp battle to watch. 

STs were horrible last year, and getting Davis back, as well as the addition of Board and some of the rookie class, should really get them back on track. Cutting Mitchell was a tough one, but Board made up for it. 

______________

“I think, honestly, any person – football player or otherwise – can learn a lot from Jim Brown and what he represents and what he stands for…

“But particularly, as it relates to our football team, Jim Brown, in my opinion, is the greatest player that ever played.

“He kind of stands above everybody with what he’s done for equality, what he stands for, what he was as a football player, what he is as a man, he’s meant so much to this game. He’s paved the way for all of us, players and coaches.”

“I’m not sure how many of our players really understand or appreciate what he meant to the game, and what he has meant to the game through his continued involvement – not only with football, but with young football players, be they Browns players or just other youth that he interacts with, primarily on the West Coast, but as we know, he’s been involved with projects through the Amer-I-Can program throughout the country, which I’ve been very fortunate to witness and be a small part of.

“So that’s why we did it, and I’m glad they appreciated it. Hopefully, that’s something, as part of their football career, that will be one small memory. It’s just a recognition of a great player and a great person and somebody who has really made the game better for all of us.”

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick on the great Jim Brown after the Patriots played the Cleveland Browns a few years ago after the team bus stopped at the statue of Brown and took a team picture.

“Let me tell you about someone I do admire. Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots has contributed more to the work I surround myself with than any black athlete in modern times–financially, intellectually, everyway. He’s been in the prisons with me. He’s met gang members in my home; he’s met gang members in Cleveland [Belichick coached the Browns from 1991 to ’95]. He’s put up money. He’s opened up areas of education for us very quietly and very strongly. Imagine what would happen if Michael Jordan did the same thing.” 

Jim Brown in 2002 on the respect he had for Belichick.

_______________

“Talent sets the floor; Character sets the ceiling.” Bill Belichick

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on Stitcher and Streamyard as Russ Goldman, Derek Havens, and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news and game analysis.

 

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Monday Patriots Notebook 5/22: News and Notes

About Steve Balestrieri

A former US Army Special Forces NCO and Officer, Steve has been following the Patriots since their days at Fenway Park. Steve has worked in the film industry and wrote as an Military Editor at SpecialOperations.com, 1945.com as a reporter for the Millbury Daily Voice, Millbury-Sutton Chronicle, and the Grafton News. He's also a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)


Tags: 53 Man Roster Projection Bill Belichick Devin McCourty Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones Matthew Judon New England Patriots Patriots Patriots edge rushers

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    Bobby in Germany
    Bobby in Germany
    10 months ago

    This shows some of the Patriots problems. Most of the names on the pre-summer cuts list are identical performers to players who make the team. With a team built out of level 1A and level 2 talent, there are too few level 1 players who are obvious and locked into their positions. The team is built to withstand injuries but not come out of the gates (when fully healthy) as powerful as teams who have studs at the top. Over the long term with obvious health issues all teams face this could be a winning formula, but it is not… Read more »

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