By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Patriots have officially announced the free-agent signings of WR Dontrelle Inman and OT Jared Veldheer. They had to release a pair of undrafted free agents in the process.
New England’s ever-intriguing receiver depth chart continues to morph with the team’s latest move, as Inman now replaces undrafted free agent Xavier Ubosi out of Alabama-Birmingham. The Patriots first announced his signing on May 6. Veldheer, meanwhile, replaces Texas offensive lineman Calvin Anderson.
Both receiver and tackle boast a lot of depth for the Patriots, but lack certainty compared to other spots on the roster. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia told reporters last Friday (via Patriots Wire’s Henry McKenna) that sophomore Isaiah Wynn out of Georgia is “penciled in” at left tackle. Assuming Wynn is fully recovered from an Achilles injury and ready for that role in his first NFL experience, the swing tackle spot behind him would still remain unresolved. Veldheer should be a prime competitor for that spot along with rookie Yodny Cajuste out of West Virginia.
Receiver, on the other hand, has no virtual roster locks beyond Julian Edelman and rookie first-round pick N’Keal Harry. Phillip Dorsett is close to that category. The experience of veterans Inman and Demaryius Thomas might give them an edge over their younger counterparts, but health will also be a significant factor there.
Split out wide…
Here’s how he receiver depth chart looks as of Tuesday:
Jakobi Meyers (UDFA, N.C. State)
Ryan Davis (UDFA, Auburn)
The Pats typically carried five receivers on their active rosters in 2018 (including special teams captain Matthew Slater). So no more than 3-4 of the above names are likely to make the 53-man roster for 2019. There aren’t a ton of sure things as far as excelling in the Patriots offense – not to mention, the question of whether Harry will be ready for a starting role from day 1. But there’s certainly plenty of depth and competition entering camp.
Backup slot receiver behind Edelman appears to be a priority, despite the recent release of Bruce Ellington. Maurice Harris, second-year receiver Braxton Berrios out of Miami, and UDFA Ryan Davis out of Auburn should compete for that role.
But the real priority at receiver this offseason, strikingly, has been size. Harry, Inman, Thomas, Harris, and Meyers all stand at 6-foot-2 or taller. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are clearly emphasizing big targets outside the numbers.
Protecting Tom Brady…
Here’s what tackle looks like after the most recent moves:
Tyree St. Louis (UDFA, Miami)
Considering Scarnecchia and Belichick’s rich history of finding and developing solid offensive linemen from all over the place, there’s more confidence that they will figure this group out. Personally, I expect the top four names here to be the tackles to start the season, barring injuries.
Wynn is a roster lock, and may be the only one. Cannon could be entrenched as the starting right tackle, but we’ve seen Belichick pull surprise trades in the past. Veldheer seems like a legitimate candidate to start there. Cajuste is also close to a lock and should find a spot somewhere in the organization.
If Cajuste suffers an injury late in the summer, there’s a good chance the Patriots essentially redshirt him by placing him on the reserve/injured list. They did the same with 2018 rookies Braxton Berrios and Ryan Izzo as they cut down the roster last September.
Considering the uncertainty, both tackle and receiver remain two of the most compelling roster battles to watch as the Patriots get ready to defend their Super Bowl title.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.