The Patriots made three roster moves ahead of Tuesday's NFL deadline to trim rosters to 85 players, ending a comeback bid for another Super Bowl hero.
After suffering an injury in New England's preseason opener against the Giants, the Patriots placed cornerback Malcolm Butler on injured reserve on Tuesday's league transaction wire, ending his season.
Butler was attempting an NFL comeback after retiring for the 2021 season, and his roster spot wasn't guaranteed, but he was making strides towards a return to form during training camp. The former Pro Bowler is under contract for the 2023 season, so he could make another run at making the team next season.
Along with Butler's season-ending injury, the Patriots also placed cornerback Joejuan Williams on season-ending injured reserve due to a shoulder injury that he also suffered in the preseason loss to the Giants, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
The struggling 2019 second-round pick was another long-shot to make the team as his issues in man coverage continued this summer.
Although Butler and Williams were viewed as depth pieces at cornerback, it's still a hit to the overall depth at the position as camp battles continue.
New England's secondary is starting to take shape, with a clearer picture presenting itself in Tuesday's joint practice against the Carolina Panthers.
The top cornerback group for the Patriots was Jalen Mills, Jonathan Jones, and rookie Marcus Jones in the slot. Mills finished the session with three pass breakups while defending Carolina's top wide receivers Robbie Anderson and DJ Moore.
As for the Jones tandem, the elder Jones is taking more reps on the outside thanks to the emergence of the 2022 third-round pick. The rookie Jones is competitive in man coverage and has some positional flexibility in zone structures as well.
New England is also cycling veteran newcomer Terrance Mitchell into repetitions with the top defensive unit after Mitchell had a strong start to the summer by flashing his high football IQ and nose for the football. As for 2022 fourth-round pick Jack Jones, the rookie is still working with the second unit. But his explosive closing speed to make plays on the ball continues to stand out in his snaps at outside corner. Second-year cornerback Shaun Wade's performance against the Giants offered hope that he can contribute this season, as he works with the second group as well. Wade made another play on the football in Monday's practice. Lastly, defensive back Myles Bryant continues to get chances in the slot and at safety with the starting defense.
The Patriots weren't counting on Butler or Williams to play significant snaps this season, and there's a chance that neither player would've made the initial 53-man roster. Still, it's a tough break for the two cornerbacks as Butler's comeback bid was a feel-good story while Williams was attempting to carve out a role for himself in the final year of his rookie deal.
New England's final move to trim their roster to 85 players was waiving punter Jake Julien. Julien was not going to make the team after the Patriots signed All-Pro punter Jake Bailey to a four-year extension earlier this month.