With free agency and the NFL Draft officially concluded, the 2020 New England Patriots are starting to take shape. While there is obviously a lot of time between now and the start of the season, it’s never too early to break down the current team. Thanks to the new CBA, the Patriots are now allowed to keep 55 players on their active roster. Let’s take a look at who those players could be in the first edition of the Patriots roster projection.
2020 New England Patriots Roster Projection 1.0
In: Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, J’Mar Smith
For better or worse, this is going to be Jarrett Stidham’s team in 2020. The former fourth-round pick is the unquestioned starter after the team opted to pass on the quarterback position in the draft. Stidham was a top quarterback prospect prior to an atrocious 2018 season, and hopefully, his one poor season had more to do with Auburn than him.
If Stidham isn’t up for the job, Brian Hoyer has plenty of experience as a bridge quarterback in this league. Undrafted free agent J’Mar Smith is capable of making some of the greatest and worst plays you’ll ever see on the football field. Bill Belichick will want to keep him around to see if he can coach the poor decisions out of his game.
Running Back/Fullback (6)
In: Sony Michel, James White, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, Danny Vitale, J.J. Taylor
Rex Burkhead is the odd man out in this Patriots roster projection. The longtime NFL veteran can be productive when on the field, but he struggles to stay healthy and the team can save about $2.9 million by cutting ties. Sony Michel and James White are locked into their respective roles, and Damien Harris should be able to handle backup work.
It’s hard to imagine Bill Belichick letting Brandon Bolden go after losing him in 2018. With James Develin retired, Danny Vitale takes over as New England’s primary fullback. J.J. Taylor won’t see the field much in 2020, but he has the physical tools to be the pass-catching back of the future.
Wide Receiver (7)
In: Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, Matthew Slater, Damiere Byrd, Jeff Thomas
Considering the uncertainty at the position, the Patriots keep a lot of receivers in this roster projection and hope something sticks. Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and Matthew Slater are locks, with Mohamed Sanu and Jakobi Meyers both pretty safe. Despite the $6.5 million in cap savings, it’s hard to imagine the team moving on from Sanu with so few options at the position.
The rest of the depth chart is anyone’s guess, but for now, Damiere Byrd and Jeff Thomas earn the final spots. Byrd is one of the few players New England signed in undrafted free agency, and his relatively high $600,000 in guaranteed money implies that the team likes him. Thomas, meanwhile, has the best tape of all of the undrafted free agents and has the potential to be a solid depth piece for years to come.
Tight End (3)
In: Matt LaCosse, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene
Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene are locks, as both players possess intriguing long-term upside. However, tight ends historically aren’t ready to contribute in Year 1, so the Patriots should keep at least one veteran on the roster. Matt LaCosse was notably better than Ryan Izzo last year, so he earns the spot on the roster.
Offensive Line (8)
In: Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Yodny Cajuste, Hjalte Froholdt, Michael Onwenu
The starting five are set in stone with Isaiah Wynn, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, and Marcus Cannon. Yodny Cajuste should earn the primary backup tackle job, as the former third-round pick possesses first-round talent when healthy. Hjalte Froholdt struggled during the 2019 preseason, but hopefully, he can improve during his second year in the league. 2020 sixth-round pick Michael Onwenu is an absolute monster of a man that never gets moved in pass protection. While conditioning could be an issue, he’s a great developmental prospect that should stick around for a while.
Defensive Line (8)
In: Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Byron Cowart, John Simon, Chase Winovich, Deatrich Wise, Nick Coe, Derek Rivers
Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler are locks on the interior, and Byron Cowart earns the first shot at replacing Danny Shelton. The former fifth-round pick had his moments in the preseason and should secure a rotational spot with another strong summer. John Simon and Chase Winovich should be the top two edge defenders on the defense, at least in the early part of the year. Both players played well in limited snaps last year and should be ready for increased work.
Deatrich Wise is what he is at this point in his career, which is a solid rotational lineman. Nick Coe is a good run-stuffer and has as good a chance as any undrafted free agent to make the roster. Derek Rivers was the 55th man on this list and will probably lose his spot to whichever unexpected player puts on a show in the preseason.
In: Dont’a Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Shilique Calhoun
The difference between “defensive line” and “linebacker” can be a little blurred, but this is how I see the front seven shaking out. Dont’a Hightower remains the top dog and de-facto leader of the front seven, while Ja’Whaun Bentley earns a bigger role with Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins departed.
Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings both possess great upside, but both players might need time before they’re ready to contribute. Shilique Calhoun earns the final spot thanks to his experience on the roster, but his job is anything but safe.
In: Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams, Justin Bethel
New England has arguably the deepest top-four cornerbacks in football with Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, and Jason McCourty. In an offseason where just about everything changed, it’s good to retain the most important part of any defense.
Joejuan Williams looked good when on the field last year, but he’ll still struggle to find playing time behind this fantastic depth. Justin Bethel is one of the best special teamers in the league, so his spot is more secure than just about anyone else on the roster.
In: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Adrian Phillips, Terrence Brooks, Kyle Dugger, Brandon King
Carrying six safeties feels like a lot, but it’s hard to find anyone to remove. Devin McCourty is a lock, as the franchise icon just re-signed to a big-money deal. Adrian Phillips was arguably New England’s biggest signing, and Kyle Dugger was a second-round pick. Brandon King, a safety in name only, is one of the core members of the special teams unit.
Terrence Brooks and Patrick Chung both make the cut in this Patriots roster projection, but it’s easy to imagine one of the two losing their spot. Brooks played well in limited snaps last year, while Chung began to show signs of slowing down. New England could save $2 million in cap space should they decide to move on without Chung.
In: Justin Rohrwasser, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona
Not much to say here. None of these three have any competition and will keep their respective jobs, barring injury.
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