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Ask PFW: Roster breakdown

The ever-changing roster has many wondering what Bill Belichick's plan is. We offer some hints in this week's "Ask PFW."


With Leon Washington cut, who do you think will return kickoffs? Could they possibly try out Josh Boyce? He has a lot of speed.**
Zach Lax

That's an interesting question and I think we'll see several players get the chance to handle those duties. Boyce is certainly one of them. He has the speed and he got regular reps returning kicks during training camp. LeGarrette Blount would be the most intriguing due to his size and he got some chances during the preseason. Shave Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Matthew Slater also took regular reps, and Julian Edelman will like see some time there as well. And of course it's always possible that Washington returns at some point, especially considering the way Bill Belichick has tinkered with his roster thus far.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, I had a question regarding the practice squad. Once a player clears waivers he can sign with the practice squad, can that player be poached from any team in the league at any time or is there a process when it comes to signing players on other team's practice squad?
Clarens Jarbath

Players who are members of the practice squad are eligible to sign with any other team. The only requirement would be the team signing the player would have to keep the player on the 53-man roster for at least three weeks. The one exception is that a practice squad player may not sign a player contract with his team's next opponent later than 4 p.m. on the sixth day preceding the game and 10th day during bye weeks. But players change team often during the season after spending time on the practice squad.
Paul Perillo

Patriots picked up four players and signed them to their 53-man roster. Three out four of these guys are undrafted rookies and have no experience with the team. While I am intrigued by them, especially A.J. Francis, how did the team evaluate them, and how/when can they start to contribute?
Jeff Y.

The evaluation of these players starts when they're in college and continues through the pre-draft process. Teams scout hundreds of players and only get to draft a handful of them, so obviously they have a lot of information on a lot more players than just the ones they pick. That evaluation process continues into the preseason as well. Belichick has talked recently about gathering information on players on the opposing team during joint practices – Aqib Talib was one of them. It will take some time for these players to get up to speed but Belichick is looking to see if there's some talent there worth looking at.
Paul Perillo

What are the rules regarding practice squad eligibility?
Bob D.

Here is an overview from the CBA on practice squad eligibility: In order to be eligible for the practice squad, players must meet one of the following requirements:

-Have no prior accrued seasons in the NFL (an accrued season is six or more games on the active roster);

-Have one prior accrued season in which the player was on the 45-man active roster for no more than eight games;

-If served two seasons on a practice squad, are eligible for a third season only if the team has at least 53 players on its active/inactive list for the duration of that player's employment.

The minimum salary for a practice squad player will be $6,000 per week, including postseason weeks in which his club is in the playoffs. If a player is promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, that player must remain there for three weeks while receiving the minimum salary. They will still receive three weeks pay, even if they are released prior to the third week. Any player under contract to an organization as a practice squad player is free to negotiate and sign a player contract with any club at any time during the league year to serve on that team's 53-man roster. The one exception is that a practice squad player may not sign a player contract with his team's next opponent later than 4 p.m. on the sixth day preceding the game and 10th day during bye weeks.
Paul Perillo

What is your opinion on Joe Vellano making 53-man roster? Is he really better than others guys on the practice squad?
Eric Cosseling

Clearly the Patriots believe he is. Vellano held his own in his two starts during the preseason, holding the point of attack well against the Lions with the rest of the starters. He's a big 300-pound guy who could provide some depth on the inside at defensive tackle, a spot where the Patriots do not have a lot of proven commodities. Justin Francis was injured and Armond Armstead is still on NFI with his infection. Marcus Forston is on the practice squad so he could always be promoted if needed. But the little I've seen of Vellano I've been impressed with. Let's see if he can stick around and contribute.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys, I noticed on Saturday that Justin Francis was waived/injured. My question is, what's the difference between being waived/injured and simply being put on the IR? Why didn't they put Francis on the IR like they did with Adrian Wilson and not expose him to waivers?
Zach Strong

I'm sure the Patriots would have preferred to do it that way but the rules prevent it. Anytime a player with less than four accrued seasons is placed on injured reserve, the player must first clear waivers. This is to prevent teams from stockpiling young players on IR with injuries that aren't necessarily serious enough to keep them out of action but still allow the teams to keep them and work with them for the future. Young players would thus be deprived of opportunities to go to another team that may want their services and therefore lose out on the chance to establish himself. In Francis' case, if another team wanted to claim him he could possibly been able to play in 2013 depending on the severity of his injury. But he went unclaimed and reverts to IR in New England.
Paul Perillo


Not happy with the cuts of Tim Tebow, Jake Ballard, Daniel Fells and Zoltan Mesko. All quality players and teammates and have proven themselves at one point or another in their NFL careers. Ryan Mallett will never score a TD in a real game, Zach Sudfeld is promising but nothing to hitch your wagon to yet, Michael Hoomanawanui is decent but can't catch and Rob Gronkowski is going to go out partying again or mess up a simple special teams play again and get another injury. Ryan Allen is good but Mesko is CLUTCH and proven. Please be honest PFW, you don't think this could blow up in our faces this year?! Anyone think Aaron Dobson/Josh Boyce/Kenbrell Thompkins are going to be a Chad Jackson repeat?**
Justin Forall

I'll start at the top. Anyone who's been reading or listening to my analysis of training camp knows I was not impressed with Tebow or Ballard this summer. Neither performed well enough to stick around. Tebow simply cannot throw well enough to perform his duties as an NFL quarterback. Ballard looked to be compromised with his knee and failed to catch the ball consistently when given opportunities. Fells was a different story. I thought he was solid throughout camp but them injured his shoulder and missed the middle two games. That was probably too much for him to make up. Mesko is as solid as they come and frankly I thought he out-kicked Allen throughout the summer. The rookie is talented but I thought Mesko was better. The team obviously thought otherwise and chose to save some cash in salary in the process. Mallett is light years better than Tebow, although I'm sure we all hope he never sees the field. The Hooman has excellent hands and is versatile coming out of the backfield. I can see those traits helping his cause. As for the rookie wideouts, I'm not sure why you automatically assume these guys are not committed to the team and improving. That was Chad Jackson's problem. He had all the talent in the world but refused to work at his craft. Let's see how these guys develop and see if their work ethic is any better before we assume they're all busts.
Paul Perillo

Why add rookies dropped by other teams? The Patriots have picked up rookies from the waiver wire, do you have any idea as to the reasoning behind these moves?
Morris Hickok

Like I pointed out earlier, I believe Belichick is looking as some different options at positions where he feels the depth is lacking. Offensive line is one of those positions. Injuries to backups have left the depth quite thin so Belichick thought he needed some extra bodies. Obviously he felt the guys he picked up had more potential than the ones he had on the roster. I understand your concern about the wire pickups, and I share them to an extent to be honest. But I'm not sure any of the players they picked up will factor into the mix in any significant way.
Paul Perillo

I haven't really seen or heard much about him, how has Dont'a Hightower been looking so far?
Jacob Mattson

Hightower is quietly enjoying a strong summer. Andy Hart wrote a story on him that appeared in the last issue of Patriots Football Weekly. Hightower has drawn praise from Belichick for his versatility and intelligence. He's been given more responsibilities in his second year and Belichick said he's handling the extra workload well. I'm looking for him to be more involved this season and perhaps show the promise we all saw in him last summer – assuming he can stay healthy.
Paul Perillo

What are your thoughts on bringing Richard Seymour back into the fold? It would go a long way to bolster our D-Line depth, and he knows the coaches and the system. He knows how to be a Patriot off the field as well. Seems like no brainer. What am I missing??
Chuck E. Ball

Seymour wants no part of playing for the Patriots, or at least that's what he's said in the past. Seymour also doesn't strike me as the type of player who come back for the veteran minimum. I think if that's all he could get he'd rather just sit out, and I think that's what's happening to him at the moment. He would provide some depth at defensive tackle in a 4-3 but he is no longer the dominant force he was when he was last with the team. If his heart isn't in it, and it certainly doesn't seem to be, then I'll pass. And I say that despite admitting that Seymour is one of my all-time favorite Patriots.
Paul Perillo

I enjoy reading PFW, you do a great job, but I have a question on the yearbook. Why is it put out so soon? It seems that it is put together well before the roster is established. Many players in the book are no longer with the team.
Old Boston Yanks Fan

Larry we publish the yearbook so it will be ready for the start of training camp every summer. That way kids can have it at camp and when the players sign autographs they can use the yearbook. It's an easy way for fans to get autographs and the yearbook then becomes a nice collector's item for the season. Obviously there are players who aren't in the yearbook who will be part of the team, but that would be true regardless of when we published it. What if we decided to wait till this week to sell it? With all the roster moves the team has made, there's no way we could have addressed them all in the yearbook. Hopefully you'll still want to grab one every year.
Paul Perillo

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