With training camp set to begin next month it's time to start early speculations about the 53 man roster for the New England Patriots. Across the NFL there's always a player or two who surprisingly make the roster after either a lackluster training camp or someone who just never made a name for themself. Who could it be this year? Who are three Patriots players that could steal a roster spot?
1. Malik Cunningham
Malik Cunningham went undrafted in this year's NFL draft. Yes, the Patriots have a current 19 year streak of having at least one undrafted free agent make the roster. But, Cunningham faces a difficult challenge.
Cunningham appears to be transitioning from quarterback to wide receiver. Obviously all Patriots fans know that Julian Edelman made this transition but he did struggle at first. Plus, he had Tom Brady throwing him the ball.
Changing your position is never easy. The Patriots playbook is also one of the hardest if not the hardest playbook to memorize in the NFL. Plus, with having DeVante Parker, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Kendrick Bourne expecting to be the big three targets for Mac Jones the fourth and possibly fifth wide spots will be competitive.
However, Cunningham has the advantage of also being a quarterback. With Cunningham being a former quarterback this allows Bill O'Brien to come up with possible trick plays. But, there's still an uphill challenge for the former Louisville quarterback to make it as a wide receiver, especially if Deandre Hopkins signs with New England.
2. Justus Tavai
Justus Tavai is already on his second stint with the Patriots. His first one is not memorable as it was only for a short few weeks. Some would say his first stint with the team doesn't count and his current time with the team counts as his first.
The Patriots defense on paper is very good. However, there is a problem brewing. Defensive tackle Lawrence Guy is currently holding out due to contract reasons. If it doesn't get resolved Belichick could altogether release Guy which frees up a roster spot for the taking. Tavai could take advantage of that if that happens.
Just like the wide receivers, being on the defensive line will be competitive. If anything, a way Tavai makes the roster would be in a backup role or even on special teams for when a field goal or an extra point is attempted.
Just like Malik Cunningham, Tavai also has the advantage of being an undrafted rookie for New England. But, with players like Christian Barmore, Davon Godchaux and Keion White (another rookie) being on the line a fourth and fifth spot will be up for grabs. Tavai isn't the ultimate stat machine but he can make key important tackles when needed.
3. Ronnie Perkins
The Patriots used a 2021 third round pick on Ronnie Perkins who's yet to take a snap for New England. This is most likely his final chance to make the roster and actually see playing time in New England.
In college at Oklahoma, Perkins made his presence known. In just six games in his final season with the Sooners, he had 5.5 sacks. Overall he was a tackling machine which is why New England used a third round selection on him, to help their pass rush.
Now what will it take for Perkins to make the roster? He's essentially going to have to beat out near every linebacker this summer. Perkins needs to be a shadow for Matt Judon or someone that can take his spot if Judon needs to be out for multiple plays or longer.
Perkins' two biggest threats on the roster are Anfernee Jennings and Mack Wilson Jr. If Perkins can out play either of them (most likely Wilson Jr.), he should make one of the spots of the Patriots 2023 roster.