Patriots Roster 2013: Latest Cuts, Depth Charts and Analysis

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IAugust 26, 2013

Patriots Roster 2013: Latest Cuts, Depth Charts and Analysis

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    The New England Patriots have trimmed down their roster to 53 players, and have announced the full eight-man practice squad.

    The roster moves haven't stopped, though, as the Patriots continue to sign and waive players as they prepare for the season opener against the Bills.

    Here's an updated look at their latest cuts, their depth chart and the practice squad, along with all the updates throughout the road to the 53-man roster.

List of Roster Cuts

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    The Patriots have to cut down to 53 players by Saturday at 6 p.m. ET. Here are the releases they've announced so far, with more moves :

    • Daniel Fells, TE
    • Jake Ballard, TE
    • Stephon Morris, CB
    • Marcus Benard, DE
    • Ben Bartholomew, FB
    • Gilbert Pena, DT
    • Matt Stankiewitch, OL
    • Scott Vallone, DT
    • Mike Rivera, LB
    • Johnathan Haggerty, WR
    • Luke Patterson, OL
    • Marcus Forston, DT
    • Jermaine Cunningham, DE
    • Tim Tebow, QB
    • George Winn, RB
    • Quentin Sims, WR
    • Zoltan Mesko, P
    • Justin Francis, DE
    • Ja'Gared Davis, LB
    • Kanorris Davis, CB
    • Chris McDonald, OL
    • Justin Green, CB
    • Jeff Tarpinian, LB
    • Adrian Wilson, S (injured reserve)
    • Josh Kline, OL
    • Leon Washington, RB

    Safety Adrian Wilson was placed on injured reserve, opening up an opportunity for safeties Tavon Wilson and Steve Gregory to be the top two in the rotation on the back end next to Devin McCourty. 

    With the release of Leon Washington, the Patriots are back to square one in their search for a quality return specialist. The Patriots haven't had a dynamic kickoff returner since Ellis Hobbs was returning kicks in 2008. 

    The most notable cut, of course, is Tim Tebow. While the quarterback had done enough, in my eyes, to make the roster, the Patriots brass felt differently. The Patriots don't need a third quarterback as badly as they need depth at other positions, and cutting Tebow frees up all of his $630,000 base salary for 2013.

    The biggest surprise of the cuts is punter Zoltan Mesko. He was engaged in a battle with Ryan Allen for the starting job. Mesko is the better punter right now, but Allen is a bit cheaper and has the distinction as the only punter to win back-to-back Ray Guy awards as the best punter in the nation while at Louisiana Tech. Mesko would have cost $1.323 million against the cap in 2013, while Allen costs just $405,000, or the rookie minimum.

    Releasing Marcus Forston and Justin Francis is a big blow to the Patriots depth on the defensive line. Forston was widely considered a lock for the roster as the third defensive tackle, and now, there is a significant question mark as it pertains to their depth. What happens should one of either Vince Wilfork or Tommy Kelly go down with an injury? What if one gets tired and needs a snap or two worth of rest?

    The release of Ras-I Dowling was an expected move given his recent injury history. Dowling has played just eight of a possible 37 regular season and postseason games since joining the Patriots two years ago.

    Things seemed to turn around, and he even won an offseason award for attendance, but he has missed considerable time since training camp opened in July. As Ben Volin of The Boston Globe points out, it will cost the Patriots $83,000 more to cut him than it would have to keep him. The Patriots simply lost patience.

    The Patriots release of tight end Daniel Fells comes one year into a three-year, $5.25 million contract, but doesn't come as a surprise given where he stood on the depth chart. He was clearly behind rookie Zach Sudfeld and veteran Michael Hoomanawanui, and at his price tag, it didn't make sense to keep him around. He'll only count for $666,667 in dead money off the cap this year, so it doesn't hurt the Patriots too much. 

    Add in the release of tight end Jake Ballard, and it sure looks like the Patriots won't be putting Rob Gronkowski on the PUP to start the season. Ballard was expected to be one of the major components in compensating for Gronkowski's absence. The Patriots claimed Ballard off waivers from the New York Giants last offseason, and stashed him away on injured reserve for the 2012 season. After getting a long look at him this offseason, they came away unimpressed.

    The release of Marcus Benard does come as a slight surprise. The defensive end had been utilized as a defensive tackle, rushing from the inside on passing downs, but he was miscast in that role and fell behind some of the other defensive ends on the roster (Michael Buchanan and Jake Bequette both had strong performances in the final preseason game).

Final Depth Chart

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    Here is a look at the Patriots final depth chart, as of 2:00 p.m. ET Saturday:

     

    QB: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett

    RB: Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden

    FB: James Develin

    WR: Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Matthew Slater 

    TE: Rob Gronkowski, Zach Sudfeld, Michael Hoomanawanui 

    LT: Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon 

    LG: Logan Mankins, Braxston Cave

    C: Ryan Wendell 

    RG: Dan Connolly, Chris Barker

    RT: Sebastian Vollmer, Will Svitek 

    DE: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jake Bequette, Michael Buchanan

    DT: Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Joe Vellano, A.J. Francis

    OLB: Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Chris White

    MLB: Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, Steve Beauharnais 

    CB: Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Logan Ryan, Marquice Cole

    FS: Devin McCourty, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner

    SS: Steve Gregory, Duron Harmon 

    K: Stephen Gostkowski 

    P: Ryan Allen

    LS: Danny Aiken

Analyzing the Practice Squad

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    Here's a list of the players the Patriots have moved to the practice squad:

    • Ja'Gared Davis, LB
    • Kanorris Davis, S
    • Justin Green, CB
    • Marcus Forston, DT
    • Jeff Tarpinian, LB
    • Quentin Sims, WR
    • Josh Kline, OL

    At one point, defensive tackle Marcus Forston looked like a lock for the roster if only because of the Patriots lack of depth at defensive tackle. Keeping him on the practice squad gives the Patriots an option if they need to find a defensive tackle at some point during the season. 

    Kanorris Davis was spotted on several special teams units during preseason games, and could get a call if the Patriots start to run thin on the back end. They currently carry five safeties, so they're pretty set at the position for the time being.

    Jeff Tarpinian has been on-and-off the roster since 2011, and has been a consistent presence on special teams whenever he's been on the field. Like Kanorris Davis at safety, Tarpinian's chances at the roster were dashed simply by too many other names at his position.

    The Patriots announced Sims had been added to the practice squad on Monday. He started out rough but looked good toward the end of training camp, and capped it all off with a two-touchdown performance in the final preseason game against the Giants.

Recently Cut Free Agents Patriots Are Rumored to Be Pursuing

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    Here is the first string of players the Patriots have claimed off waivers from other teams:

    • Chris White, LB
    • Braxston Cave, OG
    • Chris Barker, OG
    • A.J. Francis, DT

Starters and Injury Notes

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    Training camp has been a whirlwind for the Patriots. Beyond the chaos of Tom Brady's knee-injury scare midway through camp, the Patriots have had to deal with replacing the injured Rob Gronkowski but have also seen a few unknown players emerge in bigger roles.

     

    Projected Starters

    QB: Tom Brady

    RB: Stevan Ridley

    WR: Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins

    TE: Zach Sudfeld, Jake Ballard

    OT: Nate Solder, Sebastian Vollmer

    OG: Logan Mankins, Dan Connolly

    C: Ryan Wendell

    DT: Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly

    DE: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich

    OLB: Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower

    MLB: Brandon Spikes

    CB: Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard

    FS: Devin McCourty

    SS: Adrian Wilson

     

    Injury Notes

    Rob Gronkowski, TE (back): It remains to be seen whether Gronkowski will be ready Week 1, although at this point, it appears unlikely. They will activate him to the 53-man roster, as reported by ESPN. The Patriots have turned to tight end Zach Sudfeld to fill the void of his absence in the passing game. Until Sudfeld refines his blocking skills, they'll have to turn to a combination of Jake Ballard and Daniel Fells in that role.

    Armond Armstead, DL (non-football injury): The Patriots signed Armstead earlier this offseason from the CFL with much fanfare about his potential along the Patriots defensive line, but thus far, they have yet to see him take the field in training camp.

    That's a big problem, because the Patriots don't have much depth at defensive tackle. They'll have to make do with what they have for now and continue to manufacture depth with defensive ends lining up on the inside (Marcus Benard and Jermaine Cunningham have filled that role).

First Round of Cuts

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    The Patriots made the following cuts on their way to a 75-man roster:

    • Kamar Aiken, WR
    • Brandon Jones, CB
    • Niko Koutouvides, LB
    • LeQuan Lewis, CB
    • Mike Zupancic, LS
    • Cory Grissom, DT (injured reserve)
    • Marcus Zusevics, OL (injured reserve)
    • Armond Armstead, DT (reserve, non-football injury)
    • Mark Harrison, WR (reserve, non-football injury)
    • Evan Landi, TE

    Kamar Aiken showed flashes of competing for a roster spot early in camp, but his production didn't pop off the page as much down the stretch. 

    As mentioned before, the Patriots would have liked to see Armond Armstead at least take the field, and they may still get the chance by listing him with the non-football injury designation, which allows them to bring him back after Week 6 if he's ready to go.

    The release of Niko Koutouvides comes as a slight surprise, given his special teams value, but the Patriots have stocked up on players with the potential to contribute in that role and found Koutouvides more expendable than others.

Depth Chart Post 75-Man Roster Cuts and Previewing 53-Man Roster Cuts

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    Now that the Patriots are down to 75 players, here's an idea of what their depth chart might look like.

     

    QB: Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, Tim Tebow

    RB: Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, Leon Washington, James Develin, George Winn, Ben Bartholomew

    WR: Danny Amendola, Kenbrell Thompkins, Julian Edelman, Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce, Matthew Slater, Quentin Sims

    TE: Rob Gronkowski, Zach Sudfeld, Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells, Michael Hoomanawanui

    LT: Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon

    LG: Logan Mankins, Chris McDonald

    C: Ryan Wendell

    RG: Dan Connolly, Will Svitek, Luke Patterson

    RT: Sebastian Vollmer, Brice Schwab

    DE: Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jake Bequette, Michael Buchanan, Justin Francis, Marcus Benard, Jermaine Cunningham

    DT: Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, Marcus Forston, Scott Vallone, Joe Vellano

    OLB: Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Mike Rivera, Jeff Tarpinian

    MLB: Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, Steve Beauharnais

    CB: Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Marquice Cole, Logan Ryan, Ras-I Dowling, Stephon Morris

    FS: Devin McCourty, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Kanorris Davis

    SS: Steve Gregory, Adrian Wilson, Duron Harmon

    K: Stephen Gostkowski

    P: Zoltan Mesko, Ryan Allen

     

    Projected cuts

    • Ras-I Dowling, CB: It may not be a popular opinion, but Dowling has had more than enough opportunities to stay healthy and has been unable to do so three years in a row. The Patriots have enough depth at cornerback to safely move on.
    • Jeff Tarpinian, LB: The third-year linebacker has been a presence on the Patriots special teams units, but doesn't add much value on defense. The Patriots have added enough linebackers that can contribute in both areas to make this move.
    • Jermaine Cunningham, DE: The former second-round pick carved out a niche role for himself as an interior pass-rusher in the nickel package, but in his absence, he has seen that role handed to Marcus Benard.