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Patriots' 53-man roster projection: Surprising shifts at WR, CB and DE, including trades – Patriots Wire

The New England Patriots have so much depth that they’re going to have a very difficult time deciding how to complete their 53-man roster. Coach Bill Belichick has a particularly challenging puzzle of whittling down the depth chart in 2021.
After spending huge money in free agency, the Patriots only added eight rookies in the draft, electing not to sign any undrafted free agents. It was clear New England knew it had a highly talented roster. There was a surplus of experience and versatility. The roster was unlikely to have space for young and developing youngsters. The Patriots will need to trim and shuffle talent through to the practice squad.
PUP: Jarrett Stidham
Newton’s five-day absence from work was a reminder of just how quickly COVID-19 can jeopardize a quarterback’s status, particularly if they are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated. (Newton’s violation indicated he was unvaccinated.) Hoyer needs to be on the 53-man roster. The team will want to protect him from signing elsewhere over the course of the season. They have to be prepared for the possibility that Jones or Newton — or both — could miss time due to COVID-19 and/or injuries.
Quarterback is the most important position in the NFL. The Patriots will want to ensure they’re deep at the position.
Now that Sony Michel is gone, the Patriots can squeak all these players onto the depth chart. The only player they might cut is Brandon Bolden, who would then land on the practice squad, where he could recover from injury. If he’s healthy, however, Belichick will want Bolden on the roster for special teams work.
The other players in danger are Taylor and Johnson. Taylor will serve as the kick returner and punt returner — along with being a depth option on offense. Johnson, the team’s only fullback, has proved an essential part of the Patriots offense.
IR: Dalton Keene, Troy Fumagalli
The Patriots could absolutely trade for a tight end. They signed and waived tight end Kahale Warring just a few days ago, a clear indication they’re not content with what they have at the position. Asiasi put together an impressive preseason performance with four catches for 64 yards in the finale, but he hasn’t been consistent in training camp. If there’s another depth option on the trade market for cheap, the Patriots could explore their options, especially with Hunter Henry dealing with a shoulder injury (which led him to miss the last two preseason games).
IR: Marvin Hall
The depth chart is missing fan favorite Gunner Olszewski, an All-Pro punt returner. It’s strange to think they’d move on from him, but there was some writing on the wall during the final preseason game. The Patriots tried out J.J. Taylor at punt returner. Olszewski, who has yet to make an impact as a receiver, dropped a pass in the first half before apparently running the wrong route, which drew the ire of quarterback Mac Jones. It might be an overreaction to one bad game, but it might add up to Olszewski getting cut and ending up on the practice squad. Wilkerson, who led the team in receptions this preseason, might be more appealing to teams than Gunner.
Though Harry wants a trade, he won’t get one after struggling in his first preseason game and getting hurt in the second outing. He’ll have to get healthy — perhaps by starting the season on injured reserve.
IR: Marcus MartinĀ 
Martin and James Ferentz could make the roster, but I think they’ll clear waivers, which will allow the Patriots to have some depth in the interior. That might be important if Andrews will miss time with his injury. He did not play on Sunday in the preseason finale.
Cajuste and Herron seem to have proved themselves as competent for a roster spot. Cajuste, in particular, has made a late surge after a nice week of camp and a good performance against the Giants.
NFI (non-football injury) list: Joshuah Bledsoe
Bryant isn’t a sure thing to make the roster, but he seems to have earned the trust of his teammates and coaches. The Patriots like having him as a versatile option in the back end.
PUP: Stephon Gilmore
This is a group I’ve shuffled more than any other. Currently, I’ve got Joejuan Williams and Michael Jackson missing the cut. Ross did enough in his final preseason game (where he played at slot cornerback and safety). Wade was solid, too. The Patriots didn’t give up two picks last week just to cut him this week — they’re clearly interested in developing him. With Ross and Wade emerging, Williams and Jackson are on the outs.
My biggest question: Why was Winovich playing at the end of the fourth quarter on Sunday? He missed the first preseason game — and much of camp. But even so, it would be naive to think the Patriots were simply getting him up to speed in the preseason finale. Something is amiss. Are they shopping him in a trade? Are they considering cutting him? Are they sending him a message? It’s very strange.
PUP: Terez Hall
NFI: Cameron McGrone
IR: Raekwon McMillan

Anfernee Jennings, a 2020 third-round pick, continues to fail to make the cut. And that 2020 draft class continues to underwhelm. Jennings, who is dealing with an injury, simply didn’t do enough to justify bumping Perkins — or any of the other bubble players.
PUP: Byron Cowart
There are so many players who could make the roster: Tashawn Bower, Carl Davis, Akeen Spence and even Bill Murray, who has enjoyed a huge preseason. But the Patriots spent time practicing against the Eagles, which would allow Belichick to take a closer look at Barnett. What if the coach liked what he saw? That would bump the rest of these bubble players onto the practice squad to make room for Barnett, a former first-round pick.
It’s worth noting that Anderson played deep into the fourth quarter of the final preseason game. His spot on the roster is anything but safe.
The Patriots might put Quinn Nordin on the practice squad, but I can’t see New England giving the job to Nordin over Folk. The rookie missed two extra points in the second preseason game. That just shows a level of inexperience that’s not worth enduring — not when they have an extremely reliable kicker in Folk, even if his range is limited.
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The New England Patriots have an intriguing 2022 rookie class.
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