Patriots: 53-Man Roster Projection
Linebackers (5): Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Rob Ninkovich, Shea McClellin, Jonathan Freeny
Cut: Rufus Johnson, Elandon Roberts, Ramon Humber, Kevin Snyder, C.J. Johnson
While the starting linebacker corps is one of the top in the entire NFL, headlined by Hightower and Collins, the depth behind them is poor. Ninkovich is primarily a defensive end, but the 32-year-old can play outside linebacker if necessary, and reports have stated that he has been taking reps at middle linebacker. The Patriots added McClellin this offseason, rewarding him with $3.5 million guaranteed, therefore, guaranteeing a spot on the roster for McClellin, who may play linebacker or defensive end as well. Freeny earns the final spot on the depth chart over Johnson and Roberts due to Freeny’s experience. Freeny stepped in at middle linebacker when Jerod Mayo went down and was serviceable at the position.
32 offseason additions, 32 interesting facts
Cornerbacks (6): Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts, Jonathan Jones
Cut: E.J. Biggers, Cre’von LeBlanc, V’Angelo Bentley
One year ago, the cornerback position was considered the Achilles heel of the Patriots. However, Butler and Ryan flashed their potential and proved to be extremely important to the Patriots defense. Since the Patriots defense uses nickel formations so often, the number three corner is also extremely important to the team. After being cut by New England, the Patriots re-signed Coleman to the active roster from the Seattle Seahawks’ practice squad. Coleman was more than capable as a number three cornerback in the slot, a position that Cyrus Jones, the Patriots’ 2016 second round pick, was drafted to possibly excel in. Finally, the debate of Roberts against Jonathan Jones was too difficult to decide, and both players have enough potential to force the Patriots’ hand in keeping both in expense of another position.
Next: Safeties and special teams