Patriots: One surprising player who could lose roster spot in 2021
By Jerry Trotta
The New England Patriots retooled their roster this offseason thanks to a free agent spending spree that sent shockwaves around the NFL and a showing in the draft that left fans feeling confident for the first time in years.
Unfortunately for fans, there’s actually a downside to flaunting a roster that, at least on paper, seems poised to compete with upper echelon teams again.
Coming out of training camp, the Patriots will be forced to make some ruthless decisions when rosters are trimmed to 53 players.
In other words, some players who probably don’t deserve to be cut won’t end up making the final roster.
Like any team, there are some obvious candidates to lose their spot. However, we’ve taken the initiative of identifying one surprising player whose job could be in peril.
That player? Running back/special teams ace Brandon Bolden.
Brandon Bolden could struggle to make the Patriots’ final roster.
Full disclosure: Joejuan Williams was speculated as a potential surprise cut earlier this offseason by insider Phil Perry of NBC Sports, but we simply don’t see a scenario where the 2019 second-rounder doesn’t play a big role following Patrick Chung’s retirement.
Anyway, back to Bolden. You might be thinking: how does the Patriots projected fourth-string running back qualify as a surprise cut? While we hear that argument, Bill Belichick has placed tremendous trust in Bolden on special teams over the years.
The Patriots almost always have a role for Bolden, but last year was supposed to be the final year of his contract and he opted out amid the pandemic. Though they likely would’ve kept him for 2020 if he played, chances are they weren’t going to renew his deal.
There’s an argument to be had that Bolden will strengthen the Pats’ already-elite special teams unit. However, it’s worth noting New England’s special teams didn’t skip a beat without him last season, and now they have more incoming rookies Belichick will want to utilize and give reps to.
Furthermore, Bolden is on the wrong side of 30 for the first time in his career, so he was likely headed for a reduced role in the running game … especially after the Patriots drafted Oklahoma standout Rhamondre Stevenson in the fourth round back in April.
It remains to be seen what kind of role Stevenson will have as a rookie, but for someone who’s drawing comparisons to LeGarrette Blount, who was once upon a time one of the best goal line backs in the league, Stevenson could potentially take over that role.
And finally, we arrive at Bolden’s contract. While the 31-year-old will only account for a $1.97 million cap hit for next season, his deal comes with just $500,000 in dead money, meaning New England could free up approximately $1.5 million in cap space by cutting him.
The Patriots currently have over $20 million in remaining cap space, so it’s not like cutting Bolden will make a huge difference either way. We’re just saying don’t be surprised if you’ve seen the last of the eight-year pro in a Patriots uniform.