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Ask PFW: Whittling down the roster

Fans' questions answered in our weekly PFW mailbag.


Will Julian Edelman be the same? The injury last year would turn down a little bit of his potential. William Gonsalves

With the exception of a few uncharacteristic drops this summer, Edelman has looked fine to me with respect to his route-running and cutting ability following his recovery from season-ending knee surgery last year. Historically, though, almost no player is ever quite the same physically immediately upon return to full-time action. Injuries like the one Edelman suffered typically take until the second year removed before a player looks and feels like his old self.

In Edelman's case, it's also important to remember that he's 32 years old. Coming back from such a severe injury is difficult enough without the added burden of an aging body. So, while Edelman has looked speedy on the field this summer, he hasn't exactly been the same because of the frequent drops that have plagued not just him, but the entire receiving corps in general. Hopefully, his forced month-long hiatus in September will give Edelman the opportunity to remedy whatever remains to be fixed in his mind and body, so that when he eventually returns in October, he'll be as close to the same old "Jules" that QB Tom Brady and this offense have come to rely on for so long. Erik Scalavino

Is Malcolm Mitchell eligible for the practice squad? Rafael Hernandez, Mexico City

I believe he has eligibility to be on someone's practice squad this season, but I'm inferring from your question that you're curious if the Patriots would sign him to their practice squad. My guess is, no. They appeared to give him as much time as they felt they could and it just didn't work out here. I don't ever expect to see the one-time Patriots draft choice in Foxborough again. Erik Scalavino

Does Jordan Matthews have any connection to the Patriots or would he require a new contract if brought back? Not much proven talent among wide receivers. David Brown

The injury settlement that Matthews reached with New England earlier this summer makes him a free agent. He's now allowed to sign with any team this season, if and when he's deemed healthy enough to do so. That includes the Patriots, but he would have to sign an entirely new contract with them were that to happen. Erik Scalavino

Seeing as Shaq Mason is now locked up for the next five years, what do you expect for Trey Flowers? He's been a good pass rusher, and seemingly one of the best defenders on the team the past few seasons now. Can we expect to see him in a Patriots uniform for the foreseeable future? Or do you think he will be another name added to the list of guys that Belichick lets walk? Geoff Chance

Flowers, when surrounded by reporters at his locker on Monday, was asked essentially the same question. He responded diplomatically, saying he wasn't worried about his contract. However, he obviously knew about Mason and the Giants' Odell Beckham, who received mega-contract deals this week. It's bound to be on his mind from time to time, at the very least.

Flowers has been a solid player for New England. By no means an All-Pro, but a steady contributor who doesn't seem to make waves. He might be a candidate to receive an extension sometime later this season. The club doesn't always address contract matters all at once, so, perhaps there was more urgency to get Mason's deal done first.

Of course, it's also possible Flowers could continue playing under his current terms, which end after this season, and then be allowed to test free agency. My instincts tell me, though, that something will get done here with Flowers sooner or later.

Erik Scalavino

Hi, guys. With the roster cuts coming this weekend, could you explain the rules for signing players who have been released? Is the waiver process still in effect? Are veteran players who are released considered free agents? Thank you. Gary Madera, East Hanover, NJ

Very good and timely question, Gary. Any veteran with four or more accrued NFL years of service immediately becomes a free agent upon his release this weekend. The waiver process remains in effect, though only for players with fewer than four accrued seasons. Two seasons ago, for instance, you may recall that the Philadelphia Eagles used the waiver wire to claim linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, a former Patriots draft choice whom New England released at the final cut-down date.

Between this weekend and the end of Week 3 of the regular season, the waiver list is ranked based on the first-round order of the most recent NFL Draft – meaning the Patriots would be 31st in the waiver order. From Week 4 on, the list is reshuffled and determined by the current season's team records.

Erik Scalavino

With 1st-round pick [Isaiah] Wynn now out for the entire season and [right tackle Marcus] Cannon still dealing with some kind of injury, should there be some anxiety about the depth of the offensive line as we get closer to the start of the regular season? It seems like the Patriots are thin at tackle depth. Dante Scarnecchia is one of the best coaches in the NFL and he undoubtedly will get the most out of whoever he is working with, but can you weigh in and offer any additional insight on this potential issue? Chip Huckins

You were justified in having some anxiety about the tackle position, at least on the right side of the o-line, but the Patriots got some good news in that respect when Cannon returned to practice on Monday. They must hope he can stay on the field, because they'd otherwise be forced to start LaAdrian Waddle. He's a serviceable player, but one who's better suited as a depth option, not a regular starter.

Behind Waddle, there's little proven talent on the roster, which is probably why Scarnecchia and head coach Bill Belichick started giving Wynn some practice and brief games reps at right tackle before Wynn's unfortunate Achilles injury against the Eagles. Had Wynn not been injured, my guess is he'd eventually have surpassed Waddle to become New England's starting right tackle until Cannon could get back in the lineup.

Meantime, you're also right in suggesting that if anyone can make lemonade out of these lemons, it's Scarnecchia. With any luck, Cannon's return is permanent and Scar will be able to work with his preferred starting five. Erik Scalavino

Based on Malcolm Brown not starting in the third preseason game and his level of snaps, do you think the Patriots are trying to trade him? Len Carmody

It's entirely possible, Len. I'd also add that, earlier this year, New England elected not to pick up the fifth-year option (for 2019) on the contract of Brown, their former first-round draft choice. That was the first indication that his spot on the New England roster is by no means guaranteed. The acquisition of Danny Shelton was another.

Brown hasn't had a terrible preseason, so, I'd not be stunned if he remains with the Patriots for the rest of this season and is allowed to become a free agent thereafter. I'd also not blink if the team were to deal him between now and the start of the regular season, either. Erik Scalavino

Do you think [tight end] Marty Bennett and the Patriots have a side agreement about coming back after the first game? I believe there's an advantage contract-wise for the Patriots if he comes back after game one. Bennett wouldn't have to deal with the preseason, so I'm sure he'd be thrilled with that. He's still under contract with the Patriots right? Bill Hayward

No. Bennett was released by the Patriots back in March. Later that same month, he announced his retirement from pro football. Were he to change his mind again, he'd be free to sign with anyone, but I don't believe he'll do so, or, if he did, that New England would be interested in bringing him here for a third time. Erik Scalavino

Agree or disagree: 1) Cut [backup QB Brian] Hoyer. Every rep he gets is wasted because he is never going to improve, he's maxed, and his best won't make you a champion. Better to keep [rookie Danny] Etling because he can only improve and we don't know his upside; 2) Cut both McCourty brothers. The next big play Devin makes will be his first in the last two years and on the most important play of the year, in single coverage, he fell down. I'm pretty sure there are less expensive options to do little more than sit back in center field and keep everything in front of them at the risk of making plays; 3) I love listening to your [PFW in Progress radio] show. Erik, talk more. Andy, talk less. Griff Thomas

Have to disagree with your first offering, Griff. While Hoyer is no Jimmy G, he's a more proven commodity right now than Etling. However, I'd like to keep Etling around to see if he can develop into anything long-term. I see the practice squad being his landing spot in the near future.

Again, I must disagree with your second point. Yes, D-Mac lost his footing on an important go-ahead touchdown for the Eagles, but that one mistake was not the sole reason for New England's failure to beat Philly that night in Super Bowl LII. That's unfair to a guy who's been a steady presence in the Patriots secondary for nearly a decade. His brother, Jason, meantime, is not the player he once was, but is still a competent NFL player. There are no guarantees at cornerback behind Stephon Gilmore, so, it would be in New England's interest to keep someone like J-Mac around for now.

As far as Point 3 is concerned, we finally can find common ground. Thanks for listening and contributing, Griff! Erik Scalavino

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