The New England Patriots continue to shuffle the bottom of the roster, as they made three more recent moves and have now brought up their roster to the full total of 90 men. Yesterday, the Patriots cut wide receivers Lavelle Hawkins in Perez Ashford in unsurprising moves, but the decision to cut ties with top backup guard Nick McDonald was a surprise. Today, Bill Belichick expressed confidence in the backups at the position, and he said he views Tyronne Green, who now has a clear path to make the roster, as a solely a guard rather than a G/C hybrid a la Dan Connolly. The Patriots signed former Rutgers DT Scott Vallone yesterday as well, and Vallone is the classic Rutgers, “Do your job” player who had a productive college career despite a lack of physical tools; he made his living as an interior pass rusher off of an arsenal of moves and a never-gives-up motor.
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick takes notes during training camp at the practice fields of Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Earlier today, the New England Patriots signed Lavasier Tuinei, who is a former Rose Bowl MVP for the Oregon Ducks and is a big, strong receiver at 6’4″. A former Seattle Seahawks practice squad player who was released by the Cincinnati Bengals and Dallas Cowboys earlier this offseason, Tuinei will fight for a spot on the practice squad. An excellent blocker (Chip Kelly demands blocking out of his wideouts), Tuinei has always been on the Patriots radar, as they worked him out in mid-November along with current roster-hopeful Kamar Aiken.
Now, the Patriots have officially announced the signings of Vallone and Tuinei, as well as the additions of Travis Chappelear and Johnathan Haggerty. Chappelear is a 6’5″, 263 pound small school UDFA prospect who was signed and released by the Bengals this offseason, while Haggerty is a small school UDFA at the wide receiver position from 2010. The 25-year-old WR has been with the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears, and he is 6’1″, 195 pounds. Neither player is somebody I expect to even make the practice squad, and they are the definition of deep camp bodies, but let’s see what they can do and if they can surprise us.
Maybe the most notable move of the three recent ones is the release, as the New England Patriots decided to cut ties with former Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Stephon Morris. According to ESPN Boston’s Field Yates, Stephon Morris suffered a minor hamstring injury on Tuesday, but I highly doubt that has anything to do with his release. Both Morris and Matt Stankiewitch were intriguing Penn State UDFA signings made right after the draft, but the Bill O’Brien connection hasn’t helped either of them. Stankiewitch was released at the start of camp in a mildly surprising move, although the door is open for the classic Belichickian guard/center if he can get healthy again. I don’t expect a Morris reunion, but keep an eye out for his former teammate, especially since the Patriots decided to cut ties with Nick McDonald.