Come Aug. 31, the Patriots will be forced to trim their active roster to 53, which puts the spotlight on players on the so-called roster bubble.
Here are five players in danger of being cut from the Patriots’ roster at the end of August.
Danny Etling, QB
Etling’s future in New England appears to be in serious peril after the Patriots nabbed Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round.
The Patriots used a seventh-round pick on Etling last year and stashed him on the practice squad for the entire season after waiving him at the end of training camp in September. The selection of Stidham makes it doubtful they would retain Etling’s services, even just as a p-squad player.
Stidham could be the one relegated to practice squad duties, as he is unlikely to beat out veteran Brian Hoyer for the backup quarterback job. Hoyer has enjoyed some success in the NFL—posting a 16-21 record as a starting QB with 48 TD passes against 30 interceptions in 10 seasons—and can properly mentor Stidham, who aims to be the heir apparent to Tom Brady when the six-time Super Bowl champion eventually retires.
Barring injury, Etling won’t be on the team come September.
Ryan Allen, Punter
One of the key contributors in the Patriots’ Super Bowl LIII win, Allen could find himself punting for another NFL club this fall. Allen has served as the team’s punter since 2013 and helped the franchise win three Super Bowl titles in his six seasons to date. But the Patriots snagged a punter, Jake Bailey, in the fifth round of this past draft.
The Patriots brought in some punter competition to challenge Allen last year, signing the undrafted Corey Bojorquez to their practice squad. But Bojorquez was ultimately claimed off the Patriots’ p-squad by the Buffalo Bills. He served as the Bills’ punter all season, while Allen remained in New England and won another championship.
Allen re-signed with the Patriots to a one-year, $1.5 million deal with just $100,000 guaranteed this offseason. Allen’s modest contract likely means he did not have many offers aside from New England during free agency. He was probably on the bubble even before the Patriots drafted Bailey. If Bailey outperforms Allen during training camp and the preseason, the Patriots will axe Allen.
Derek Rivers, Defensive End
The Patriots drafted two defensive linemen over the weekend: Michigan’s Chase Winovich (round three) and Byron Cowart (round five) out of Maryland.
Winovich played defensive end and linebacker for Michigan, while Cowart lined up as a defensive tackle at Maryland. Cowart could be used as a DE in the Patriots’ base defense.
Rivers, a former third-round pick, has showed little promise since being drafted in 2017. He tore his ACL before his rookie season and appeared in just six games last year. He has just two tackles and one sack to his name as a pro.
Winovich has starter upside at DE and adds talent to a revamped edge defender group that now includes Michael Bennett, the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end who the Patriots acquired over the offseason.
Rivers is facing an uphill battle to make this year’s roster.
Keion Crossen, Cornerback
Crossen appeared in 11 games as a rookie in 2018. A seventh-round selection, Crossen will be battling for a roster spot with this year’s seventh-round draft pick, Ken Webster.
The Patriots are loaded at cornerback, which means it could come down to Crossen versus Webster, especially since the Patriots used a second-round pick on corner Joejuan Williams. Crossen made the club last year after impressing on special teams, something Webster will be tasked with doing this summer.
Both Crossen and Webster are practice-squad eligible, but whoever gets cut in late-August is likely to be claimed to a different team’s active roster. So in all likelihood, only one of these players has a future in New England.
Maurice Harris, Wide Receiver
Receiver Maurice Harris may not end up suiting up (in a regular-season game) for the Patriots after all. The 26-year-old Harris signed with the Patriots in the offseason, but he might be the odd-man out after the team used its first-round pick on Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry.
Harry, a two-time All-Pac-12 selection, became the first receiver taken in the first round in the Bill Belichick era. The last time the Patriots picked a wideout in the first round was 1996, when they drafted Terry Glenn with the 7th overall pick.
Harry (6’3/228) is a physical player who maximizes his size and is best deployed as an outside receiver, which is where Harris lined up for most of his snaps during his two-year tenure with the Washington Redskins. Harris, who went undrafted in 2016 before latching onto Washington’s roster, will have a hard time securing a spot with the Patriots.