While every team is busy paring rosters down to the NFL-mandated 53 during Labor Day weekend, few are as active on cutdown day as the Patriots. That was the case once again in 2017 as New England swung several trades in the process of whittling the roster down to 53.
The most notable of the moves involved quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was dealt to Indianapolis in exchange for wide receiver Phillip Dorsett. Brissett played the entire game against the Giants in Week 4 of the preseason and put forth a solid effort, completing 28 of 39 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns. That effort no doubt got the attention of some teams across the league, and with Andrew Luck nursing a shoulder injury and only recently being removed from PUP, the Colts came calling.
Dorsett is a 2015 first-round pick with speed to burn. While he has been a disappointment over his time with the Colts, there's no doubting his speed. Dorsett ran a 4.33 40 at the 2015 Scouting Combine and he has big-play potential. It's possible Bill Belichick targeted Dorsett as a punt returner as well with Julian Edelman and Cyrus Jones lost for the season with torn ACLs, although the speedster has just two career attempts under his belt. Dorsett has 51 career receptions for 753 yards and three touchdowns in his two seasons in Indy.
In addition to the Brissett deal, the Patriots swung three other trades. The first sent cornerback Justin Coleman to Seattle for a reported seventh-round pick. The Patriots also acquired cornerback Jonathan Bademosi from Detroit for a reported 2019 sixth-round pick and Seattle defensive end Cassius Marsh for fifth- and seventh-round picks. The latter moves addressed depth needs on the edge and in special teams.
Bademosi, 27, originally entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Cleveland Browns. The 6-0, 206-pounder led the Browns in special teams tackles in each of his four seasons in Cleveland before signing with Detroit as an unrestricted free agent in 2016. He has appeared in 78 NFL games with three starts and totaled 31 tackles, one interception, eight passes defensed and one fumble recovery on defense and 65 tackles on special teams.
The 25-year-old Marsh was originally drafted by Seattle in the fourth round in 2014. The 6-4, 245-pounder has appeared in 37 regular-season games with one start and posted 40 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Last season, he played in all 16 games with one start and posted 17 tackles, three sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
There were plenty of other moves to be made beyond the trades, and the Patriots took care of those as well. Edelman, Jones and rookie defensive end Derek Rivers were placed on injured reserve while rookie offensive lineman Andrew Jelks and defensive lineman Keionta Davis were placed on the non-football injury list. Rookie tackle Tony Garcia was moved to the non-football illness list.
Beyond that there weren't many surprises among the cuts. The Patriots released running backs Brandon Bolden and LeShun Daniels, offensive linemen Jamil Douglas, Ted Karras, Conor McDermott, Max Rich, Jason King and James Ferentz, running back D.J. Foster, linebackers Trevor Bates, Brooks Ellis, Nick Usher and Jonathan Freeny, defensive linemen Geneo Grissom, Woodrow Hamilton, Josh Augusta, Mikey Bart and Darius Kilgo, tight ends James O'Shaughnessy and Sam Cotton, wide receivers Tony Washington, Cody Hollister, K.J. Maye, Austin Carr and Devin Lucien, fullback Glenn Gronkowski and defensive backs Kenny Moore, Jason Thompson, David Jones, Damarius Travis, Will Likely and D.J. Killings.
Belichick has a propensity for keeping undrafted rookies and finding roles for them and there will be four candidates — at least initially. Defensive tackle Adam Butler, offensive lineman Cole Croston, tight end Jacob Hollister and linebacker Harvey Langi are all undrafted rookies who survived cutdown day and will get a chance to stick around. Fourth-round pick Deatrich Wise is the lone member of the draft class still standing at this point, although Garcia would be eligible to return after eight weeks.
Croston getting the nod over Karras was a mild surprise, although the rookie out of Iowa showed the ability to play guard and tackle during the preseason and potentially provides a similar amount of insurance as the 2016 draft pick.
A look at the headshots of the entire New England Patriots Super Bowl LII 53-man roster.
Jacob Hollister showed the ability to catch the ball all summer long and he beat out O'Shaughnessy for the third tight end spot, although Belichick will likely continue to tinker with the position going foward. Both players seem more suited for roles as move tight ends rather than blockers, and with both Cam Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle surviving for the time being, the need for another blocker may be mitigated at least initially.
Jordan Richards' presence on the roster is also a mild surprise. The third-year safety had an eneven summer at best, seeing plenty of playing time during the preseason. He was on the field for several big plays allowed and showed poor tackling angles at times, yet found a way to stick around.
In Week 3 at Detroit, Richards served as a linebacker, which some viewed as Belichick searching for a role that suited the struggling safety. The former second-round pick was happy to be on the field.
"Anything that allows me to play football is a good thing," Richards said. "We're used to seeing things from the back end and that allowed me the chance to see things from another perspective."
Belichick often tinkers with his roster throughout the first month, so these cuts are by no means final. But once again the coach's ability to think outside the box was the overriding factor of the day.