New England Patriots: What Does Gaffney's Release Mean for Final Roster?

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New England Patriots: What Does Gaffney's Release Mean for Final Roster?
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In a shocking turn of events, the New England Patriots reportedly released wide receiver Jabar Gaffney on Monday, according to NFL Network's Albert Breer.

Gaffney was considered by many to be a lock for the team and the final 53-man roster. Gaffney's release was part of the cuts that trimmed the roster down to 75 men by Monday's deadline.

While the release is extremely surprising, the Patriots must focus on the future rather than the past. And as the common saying goes, "When one door closes, another one opens."

That adage is especially comforting to players on the roster bubble—the release of a player who was once thought of as a lock will surely open a spot on the final roster for another player.

Here are some options that the Patriots may have with the extra space on the roster.

 

Keeping Eric Kettani with the Team

News surrounding the Patriots with their new offensive coordinator included the idea that New England would keep a fullback on the 53-man roster come August 31. Eric Kettani is now the favorite to land the role as fullback, as Spencer Larsen was placed on injured reserve earlier on Monday.

Holding on to Dan Koppen at Center

While Dan Koppen lacks positional flexibility, he is a seasoned veteran who has been with the team since getting drafted by the Pats in 2003. Many projected Koppen to get released, as New England would like to bring in younger talents on a questionable offensive line. As Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe notes, Koppen would have been cut already out of respect.

I'd say the odds are now very strong Dan Koppen makes the team. If he wasn't on the 53, they would/should have waived him now out of respect

— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) August 27, 2012

Allowing Five Running Backs on the Roster

The running back position seemed to have been set in stone a few weeks ago with Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and Brandon Bolden filling out four roster spots. The outlook at the position changed when former olympian Jeff Demps signed with the Pats in mid-August. It looked like Bolden or Woodhead might be out, but now, it appears that the Pats might have space for five running backs.

What should the Patriots do with the extra roster spot?

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Adding Insurance to Tight End

The Patriots currently have four tight ends in the mix for the roster, two of whom (Rob Gronkowski and recently-extended Aaron Hernandez) are locks for years to come. Visanthe Shiancoe and Daniel Fells are the other two options.

Gronkowski suffered an ankle injury in the AFC Championship Game against the Baltimore Ravens. The lack of depth at the tight end position showed in Super Bowl XLVI, which the Pats eventually lost to the New York Giants

While Bill Belichick and company would love to have three tight ends on roster, it would be more of a luxury rather than a necessity. If management were to make the decision to add more depth to TE, Fells would likely be the best option, mainly because Shiancoe's health is questionable at the moment, whereas Fells is healthy.

 

Replace Gaffney with Another Wide Receiver

In what would be the simplest move, the Pats could slide up players behind Gaffney on the depth chart and have another wide receiver, likely Jeremy Ebert or Jesse Holley, on the team. 

Holley is older and has very limited production, with only seven receptions for 169 yards in his career. Ebert would be the popular choice.

Of these five options, I see the Pats holding on to Woodhead and Bolden and keeping five running backs on the roster. There is a tremendous amount of talent at that position, and it would be difficult to let anyone go.

We'll find out what the Patriots do at the deadline on Friday night.

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