New England Patriots

Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Bailey Zappe (55) during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots’ 2022 draft class are now all officially Patriots. On Thursday, the team announced it has agreed to a deal with fourth-round pick Bailey Zappe, who was the final player left to sign.

Zappe’s deal is a standard four-year rookie contract worth up to $4.3 million with a $647,070 signing bonus. He’ll carry a $866,768 cap hit in 2022.

After setting multiple single-season passing records at Western Kentucky last fall, Zappe moved himself into the middle tier of quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Draft. In New England, he’s expected to compete with Brian Hoyer for the top backup role behind Mac Jones.

Zappe’s deal was officially announced by the team along with the two tops picks – center Cole Strange and wide receiver Tyquan Thornton – whose signings were reported over the last two days. This is almost a month earlier than the Patriots got their rookie deals signed last year, with Christian Barmore’s not coming until July 21.

While these rookie contracts have been announced by the team, they’ve yet to be made official by the league. That’s because the Patriots will need to open up some cap space in order to fit them in. ESPN’s Mike Reiss tweeted Thursday evening that fans should “expect word of a restructured deal from a respected veteran soon,” in a corresponding move.

Who are the most likely candidates for a contract restructure? Tight end Hunter Henry and linebacker Matthew Judon both have contracts that could be reworked by converting base salary into a signing bonus, which could open up more than enough money to fit all three rookies.

They could also work on a contract extension with punter Jake Bailey, who currently has a $4.1 million cap hit and is entering a contract year. Adding years on to Bailey’s current deal could drop his cap number for 2022, which is currently the second-highest among all punters in the NFL and $1 million more than the next closest player.

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Meet the New England Patriots' 2022 draft class

  • Here’s the full list of the Patriots’ 2022 draft picks, what you need to know about each of them, and how they’ll fit in as rookies and beyond.

    1st Round, 29th Overall: Cole Strange, G/C, UT-Chattanooga

    Cole Strange prior to a play against Mercer. (Credit: GoMocs.com)

    Cole Strange prior to a play against Mercer. (Credit: GoMocs.com)

    Initially, the name Strange lived up to this selection for the Patriots. Strange was perhaps the best interior offensive line prospect available at the time of the 29th pick, but was widely projected to actually be picked in rounds 3-4. Subsequent reports indicated that Strange was not going to make it out of the second round. So Belichick decided to target his guy when he knew he could get him.

    Strange as a draft selection immediately drew comparisons to the last guard the Patriots took in the first round, Logan Mankins in 2005. He’ll have to play at a Mankins level, meaning multiple All-Pro selections, in order to return true first-round value at his position.

    Offensive line is arguably Belichick’s best position when it comes to drafting and developing, so Strange is likely to be at least a solid long-term starter at guard. But we’ll be left wondering if Belichick could’ve found a solid starting guard in the middle rounds, like he did in the recent past with Joe Thuney (2016 third-round pick) and Shaq Mason (2015 fourth-round pick).

    That said, Belichick and the Patriots absolutely had to hit on this pick. They had to land someone who can start immediately and be a long-term answer at a position of need, whether he’s an All-Pro or simply solid and dependable. So Strange would qualify as one of the safest picks possible in that regard. At the very least, Strange should step in and start at one of the guard spots right away, and provide stability on a roster that’s needed it in recent years.

  • 2nd Round, 50th Overall: Tyquan Thornton, WR, Baylor

    Oct 9, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (9) in action during the game between the Baylor Bears and the West Virginia Mountaineers at McLane Stadium. Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 9, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears wide receiver Tyquan Thornton (9) in action during the game between the Baylor Bears and the West Virginia Mountaineers at McLane Stadium. Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Strange may be talked about a lot after this draft, but Thornton is easily the Patriots pick that should come with the most intrigue and scrutiny. The Patriots traded up from 54 to 50 in a trade with the Chiefs to select Thornton, who led all receivers at the Combine with a blazing 4.28 time in the 40-yard dash.

    The reason Thornton will be scrutinized is not simply that he’s a wide receiver drafted by a team that’s historically struggled to consistently draft and develop at the position. It’s that three other receivers were selected soon after him: the Steelers drafted George Pickens out of Georgia at 52, the Colts took Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce at 53, and the Chiefs used the pick they got from the Patriots to take Skyy Moore out of Western Michigan.

    All four of those picks will be closely compared to each other in the coming years, fair or not. And the Patriots were the ones who traded up to take one. Reports indicate that they had to do it because at least one other team had Thornton atop their board. If it was the Steelers, who are a veritable receiver factory, that’s a good sign for the Patriots.

    Thornton brings two important qualities to the Patriots’ receiver room: speed and separation ability. He entered the draft with concerns about his wiry frame (6-foot-2, 181 pounds) and limited route-running. But as an outside receiver, he immediately becomes the fastest on the team, and the one with by far the most upside.

  • 3rd Round, 85th Overall: Marcus Jones, CB, Houston

    Sep 25, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars cornerback Marcus Jones (8) returns a punt for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Navy Midshipmen at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 25, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Cougars cornerback Marcus Jones (8) returns a punt for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Navy Midshipmen at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots add more speed, this time to the defense and special teams. Jones will have a chance to make his presence felt as a rookie in the return game, with the Pats needing to replace Gunner Olszewski.

    The winner of the 2021 Paul Hornung award as the nation’s most versatile player, Jones excelled as both a cornerback and returner for the Cougars. He returned two touchdowns each on kicks and punts, and also logged five interceptions, 13 pass breakups, and a forced fumble on defense.

    At 5-foot-8, Jones projects as a slot cornerback at the NFL level. On the Patriots, he should immediately be a top candidate to return kicks and punts. He also has the potential to be a long-term replacement for starting slot cornerback Jonathan Jones, whose 2021 season was cut short due to a shoulder injury and who is entering the final year of his contract.

  • 4th Round, 121st Overall: Jack Jones, CB, Arizona State

    Nov 27, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Jack Jones (0) against the Arizona Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 27, 2021; Tempe, Arizona, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Jack Jones (0) against the Arizona Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Belichick addresses the cornerback position again, but unlike Marcus Jones, Jack Jones projects to cover on the outside.

    Jones is described as a ball-hawking cornerback with playmaking instincts. His relative lack of size and play strength (5-foot-11, 171 pounds) projected him as a day-3 pick, despite his ball skills and history of college production when on the field. Lance Zierlein said of Jones at NFL.com: “His lack of size/strength should make technique a top priority, as his talent for finding the football won’t matter as much if he can’t get on the field.”

    Jones has overcome past legal trouble and other disciplinary issues along his path to the pros. In 2018, after a productive sophomore season at USC, he was dismissed from the school after being deemed academically ineligible. That summer, he was arrested and later pled guilty to misdemeanor burglary charges for his involvement in a break-in at a Panda Express restaurant. He spent a year at Moorpark, a junior college in California, without playing football, then made it to Arizona State in 2019. The Sun Devils suspended Jones for violating team rules after an altercation with a teammate in 2020, limiting him to just one game. He came back for his senior year in 2021 and played 11 games with three interceptions, six pass breakups, and three forced fumbles.

    Jones will have a chance to play a lot at outside cornerback sooner rather than later, due to the Patriots’ depth and talent concerns at the position. But he’ll certainly have to stay out of trouble, both inside and outside team facilities. His legal problems are now four years in the rearview mirror, so there’s reason for optimism. If the Patriots can tap into Jones’ talent and get the most out of him, they could have another Malcolm Butler/J.C. Jackson type on their hands.

  • 4th Round, 127th Overall: Pierre Strong Jr., South Dakota State

    Pierre Strong Jr. #20 of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits celebrates during the game against the Minnesota Gophers on August 29, 2018 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Gophers defeated the Jackrabbits 28-21. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

    Pierre Strong Jr. #20 of the South Dakota State Jackrabbits celebrates during the game against the Minnesota Gophers on August 29, 2018 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Gophers defeated the Jackrabbits 28-21. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

    Strong was the fastest running back in the class, with a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash, which was tied for first at the position. So with this selection, the Patriots drafted the fastest player at both receiver and running back, along with a speedy cornerback/returner in Marcus Jones.

    The FCS rushing leader with 1,668 rushing yards as a senior, Strong earned a consensus All-America selection with his elite production in the conference. He also earned all-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors for three straight years. Strong also caught 22 passes for 150 yards in 15 games in his final year and was a team captain in his last two seasons.

    New England typically likes to “redshirt” rookie running backs, giving them limited playing time, if any at all. James White, Damien Harris, and J.J. Taylor barely played as rookies, while Rhamondre Stevenson was in and out of the lineup and played mainly out of necessity amid injuries at the position. So despite Strong’s ability to add legit speed to the roster, it would be surprising if we saw much of him in 2022.

    That said, Strong projects as a potential long-term answer on the ground. He has the floor of a solid change-of-pace back with the upside of a long-term lead back, but probably needs time to develop if he’s going to be a long-term replacement for James White on passing downs.

  • 4th Round, 137th Overall: Bailey Zappe, QB, Western Kentucky

    Western Kentucky's Bailey Zappe scrambles during the first quarter against Michigan State on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal/USA TODAY Network)

    Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe scrambles during the first quarter against Michigan State on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe scrambles during the first quarter against Michigan State on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal/USA TODAY Network)

    This pick should certainly put Jarrett Stidham on the hot seat, if not Brian Hoyer as well. Zappe (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) lacks the pure arm talent and physical traits to be a long-term starter at the NFL level, but he’s a confident, aggressive passer who could make plays in a pinch if he ever has to play. Think Case Keenum.

    If Mac Jones doesn’t work out long-term, Patriots fans can keep their fingers crossed that Zappe turns out to be a diamond in the rough, and actually plays more like Drew Brees than your standard journeyman gunslinger. He certainly has the right mentality for the position. You need a high level of confidence to even have a chance. It’s a matter of how much Zappe’s unimpressive athletic qualities hold him back.

  • 6th Round, 183rd overall: Kevin Harris, RB, South Carolina

    South Carolina Gamecocks running back Kevin Harris (20) avoids a tackle from North Carolina Tar Heels defensive back Tony Grimes (20)during the DukeÕs Mayo Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Thursday, December 30, 2021. Jg Mayobowl 123021 046

    South Carolina Gamecocks running back Kevin Harris (20) avoids a tackle from North Carolina Tar Heels defensive back Tony Grimes (20)during the Duke’s Mayo Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Thursday, December 30, 2021. (Syndication: The Greenville News)

    Described in scouting reports as generally a bruising power back, Harris averaged 6.2 yards per carry and scored 15 touchdowns on the ground as a sophomore with the Gamecocks in 2020. He underwent back surgery in the summer of 2021, then returned to play 12 games in his junior year with 4.3 yards per carry and four TDs.

    Considering the Patriots’ penchant for “redshirting” rookie running backs, and that they already have Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson on the depth chart, it’s likely the only way we see Kevin in 2022 is if the Pats have significant injury problems. But this could be an indication that the pressure’s on Damien Harris, who is entering the final year of his rookie deal.

    The injury history is a concern, as back problems always should be. But that obviously didn’t stop Harris from playing as a junior. The hope is that he can keep the back issues in the past and eventually contribute in the ground game.

  • 6th Round, 200th overall: Sam Roberts, DL, Northwest Missouri State

    Defensive tackle Sam Roberts playing for the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats. (Photo courtesy Northwest Missouri State University Athletics)

    Defensive tackle Sam Roberts playing for the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats. (Photo courtesy Northwest Missouri State University Athletics)

    Never heard of Roberts’ school? Don’t be surprised. Roberts won the 2021 Cliff Harris Award as the nation’s best small-college defensive player.

    The Patriots are betting on Roberts as a hidden gem from a lesser-known Division-II college program. Roberts logged 6.5 sacks and 18 tackles for loss as a senior at Northwest Missouri State. He earned first team All-America honors in the D2CCA and AFCA.

    At 6-foot-5 and 293 pounds, Roberts has the frame to potentially play a 5-technique role for the Patriots (defensive end in a 3-4 alignment). That’s a role they’ve struggled to fill in recent years. But as a D-2 player and sixth-rounder, Roberts will certainly qualify as someone Belichick will say “has a long way to go.”

  • 6th Round, 210th overall: Chasen Hines, G/C, LSU

    Mar 4, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisiana State offensive lineman Chasen Hines (OL20) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 4, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisiana State offensive lineman Chasen Hines (OL20) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots once again addressed their interior offensive line in the sixth round with Hines, a four-year letterwinner at LSU. He has the potential to play both guard and center at the NFL level. Contrasted with first-round pick Cole Strange, Hines has a better chance to play center in the long-term. At NFL.com, Lance Zierlein describes Hines as a “burly, strong center/guard prospect whose strengths lend themselves to a fit with a power-based rushing attack.”

    Considering Hines’ pedigree, Belichick’s history of coaching up the position, the Patriots’ needs, and the potential with injuries at tackle, it’s possible we see Hines on the field in 2022. If Isaiah Wynn or Trent Brown have to miss time, Mike Onwenu would be a candidate to slide from guard to tackle, creating an opening.

    This is where most people would have preferred the Patriots to wait to pick a guard, rather than in the first round. But either way, the Patriots certainly addressed that immediate need and should be OK at that spot going forward.

  • 7th Round, 245th overall: Andrew Stueber, OT, Michigan

    Andrew Stueber #71 of the Michigan Wolverines in action in the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium on November 07, 2020 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

    Andrew Stueber #71 of the Michigan Wolverines in action in the game against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium on November 07, 2020 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

    With this selection, the Patriots address a long-term need at tackle. They also extend their streak of selecting at least one player from Michigan to four years in a row, following Chase Winovich in 2019, Josh Uche and Mike Onwenu in 2020, and Cameron McGrone in 2021.

    Stueber earned All-Big-10 honors and was named a second team All-American by the AFCA in 2021. A three-year letterman at Michigan, Stueber started all 14 games at right tackle for the Wolverines, and his teammates named him an alternate captain.

    Stueber certainly has the height that the Patriots have liked at tackle at 6-foot-7. Interestingly enough, his NFL.com draft profile says he “might have teams considering him as both a guard and a tackle.” He started 20 games at right tackle and two at right guard at Michigan.

A 'way too early' 2022 Patriots roster projection

  • The spring workout portion of the Patriots offseason has come and gone. Between OTAs and Minicamp, the Patriots ended up holding eight practices – six OTAs and two Minicamp sessions. Of those eight, four were open to the media (two of each).

    Those four practices offered the first glimpse into what the 2022 Patriots will look like. There’s still a number of pieces left in the puzzle – for instance, spring practices are low contact and the players are not in pads – but seeing things like player groupings, the developing chemistry between different players, and just a general in-person look at players for the first time in four months, help give an idea as to where things are at.

    For this roster projection, we’ll take into account what happened on the field in Foxborough over the course of the four open practices, with the understanding that there’s still more to come before roster cuts begin. That condition especially applies to offensive and defensive linemen, who are more limited than most by the unpadded practices due to the nature of their positions.

    One other note – for the purpose of this exercise we’re going to be working on putting together the Patriots Week 1 roster. Generally, teams will set a 53-man roster for the cutdown deadline, then immediately make changes including putting players on IR (players must be on the initial 53-man roster to be eligible to return from IR during the season, while players placed on IR prior to that date are ineligible to play at all that season) and signing others from their own and other teams’ practice squad. Such opportunities will be noted in each section.

    Finally, all players are listed alphabetically at their respective positions. The order is not representative of a depth chart projection. Rookies are in italics.

  • Quarterback (3)

    Nov 14, 2021; New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer (5) and quarterback Mac Jones (10) walk onto the field prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium. Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 14, 2021; New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer (5) and quarterback Mac Jones (10) walk onto the field prior to a game against the Cleveland Browns at Gillette Stadium. Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

    –Brian Hoyer
    –Mac Jones
    Bailey Zappe

    No major surprises here. That being said, Hoyer could be a candidate to be initially cut and then brought back after another player is placed on IR – as was the case last year. Even if he is let go on cutdown day, it feels highly unlikely he wouldn’t be with the team for Week 1.

  • Running back (5)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - NOVEMBER 28: Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Rhamondre Stevenson #38 after scoring a rushing touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 28, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – NOVEMBER 28: Damien Harris #37 of the New England Patriots celebrates with Rhamondre Stevenson #38 after scoring a rushing touchdown against the Tennessee Titans in the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium on November 28, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    –Damien Harris
    Kevin Harris
    –Rhamondre Stevenson
    Pierre Strong
    –J.J. Taylor

    PUP/ERIR:

    –James White

    James White was present for most of spring practices, but he was also limited. Initial reports suggest he may not be fully cleared to play by the start of the season, so he’s a player that could open the year either on PUP, or be named to the initial 53-man roster then moved to Eligible to Return Injured Reserve (ERIR). White would miss at least six weeks if placed on PUP, or four if he ends up on ERIR.

    If White isn’t able to start the season, the Patriots will need someone else to step up as the main pass-catching back. Brandon Bolden, who filled the role for White last season, left in free agency. Rookie Pierre Strong looks like the best fit for the position on paper, but fellow rookie Kevin Harris also seemed involved as a pass catcher this spring. J.J. Taylor could be a factor in that conversation as well, although he’s also a logical candidate as a player who could be initially released.

  • Wide receiver (6)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 02: Jakobi Meyers #16 of the New England Patriots celebrates after scoring a touchdown with teammate Kendrick Bourne #84 at Gillette Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 02: Jakobi Meyers #16 of the New England Patriots celebrates after scoring a touchdown with teammate Kendrick Bourne #84 at Gillette Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    –Nelson Agholor
    –Kendrick Bourne
    –Jakobi Meyers
    –Ty Montgomery
    –DeVante Parker
    Tyquan Thornton

    There’s a lot going on here, but let’s start with the names not appearing on this list. While Tre Nixon had a strong spring, two practices – unpadded practices too – are not enough for him to lock up a roster spot just yet. If he continues to perform the way he did in the spring once the pads come on this summer he can change that, but he’s not there quite yet.

    For now, Ty Montgomery lands the final wide receiver spot. Like Nixon, Montgomery stood out at times in OTAs and Minicamp, and his versatility as a hybrid receiver and running back who can also cover kicks make him too valuable to leave off the roster.

    Also absent from this list is last year’s camp standout Kristian Wilkerson. Wilkerson’s primary value is still on special teams, and with Montgomery also filling that role it has him on the outside looking in for now.

    N’Keal Harry also misses the cut here. Entering the final year of his contract, this is likely the end of his time in New England.

    Finally, a note about Nelson Agholor. It’s very, very unlikely the Patriots would straight up release him, but if Tyquan Thornton really has a strong summer Agholor could become a trade candidate – similar to the dynamic between Sony Michel and Rhamondre Stevenson last year.

  • Tight end (2)

    Oct 10, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry (85) makes a catch during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 10, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; New England Patriots tight end Hunter Henry (85) makes a catch during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

    –Hunter Henry
    –Jonnu Smith

    There certainly is a case to be made for keeping Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene around, and if released they’d be logical candidates for the practice squad. However, with five running backs and six wide receivers, this roster is already loaded up at the skill positions. The cuts have to be made somewhere.

  • Offensive line (8)

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    –David Andrews (C)
    –Trent Brown (T)
    –James Ferentz (G/C)
    –Justin Herron (T)
    –Michael Onwenu (G/T)
    –William Sherman (G/T)
    Cole Strange (G/C)
    –Isaiah Wynn (T)

    IR:

    Chasen Hines
    Andrew Stueber

    Eight offensive linemen are on the lower side of the usual total at the position for the Patriots, but the versatility of the players listed here as well as the new practice squad elevation rules make it possible. Sherman comes in on the fringe, with Arlington Hambright, Yasir Durant, Yodny Cajuste, and rookie UDFA Kody Russey all candidates for that final spot as well – or the next spot if the Patriots decide to keep nine linemen.

    As for Hines and Stueber, Bill Belichick noted last week that they’re not yet ready to be on the field for practice. That could be a sign of a potential red shirt season being in the cards.

  • Defensive line (6)

    Nov 14, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise (91) and defensive end Lawrence Guy (93) react after sacking Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (not seen) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 14, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots defensive end Deatrich Wise (91) and defensive end Lawrence Guy (93) react after sacking Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (not seen) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    –Christian Barmore
    –Carl Davis
    –Davon Godchaux
    –Lawrence Guy
    LaBryan Ray
    –Deatrich Wise

    The Patriots bring back pretty much the same group up front defensively from last year, counting on player development and growth within the system to drive improvement. The main two players to focus on in that regard would be Christian Barmore and Davon Godchaux.

    LaBryan Ray makes the cut as the fresh face of the group. It’s not a coincidence the Patriots have kept at least on UDFA on the roster every season since 2004, and Ray seems like the best candidate to continue that streak.

    Two players just miss the cut here in Henry Anderson and Daniel Ekuale. The Patriots restructured Anderson’s contract earlier this offseason, but the 30-year-old struggled to find his footing last summer and then got hurt early in the season. Ekuale spent most of last year on the Patriots’ practice squad and was regularly elevated, and could see the same thing happen this year.

    UPDATE: Daniel Ekuale has reportedly been suspended for the first two games of the regular season, so he is not eligible and will not count against the 53-man roster to start the year.

  • Linebacker (7)

    Aug 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots outside linebacker Matt Judon (9) at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots outside linebacker Matt Judon (9) at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    –Ja’Whaun Bentley
    –Matthew Judon
    –Cameron McGrone
    –Raekwon McMillan
    –Josh Uche
    –Mack Wilson
    –Ronnie Perkins

    This Patriots linebacker group brings youth and athleticism to what has traditionally been a more veteran and physical position in New England. As the summer goes on, one of the premier roster battles will be between Cameron McGrone, Raekwon McMillan, and Mack Wilson for the middle linebacker spot.

    If the Patriots want to add depth on special teams, Jahlani Tavai or Harvey Langi could also be added to this group. There’s also Anfernee Jennings, who returns after spending last season on IR.

  • Cornerback (7)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 17: Jalen Mills #2 of the New England Patriots celebrates after the Patriots stopped the Dallas Cowboys on fourth down in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 17: Jalen Mills #2 of the New England Patriots celebrates after the Patriots stopped the Dallas Cowboys on fourth down in the first quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    –Justin Bethel
    –Myles Bryant
    –Malcolm Butler
    Jack Jones
    –Jonathan Jones
    –Jalen Mills
    –Terrance Mitchell

    PUP/ERIR:

    Marcus Jones

    If the Patriots are going to add to the roster externally between now and the start of the season, cornerback seems like the most logical position for them to do so. While it was temped to add an ‘external acquisition’ spot to this list, we’ll take a key from Belichick and only comment on the players in the building for now.

    On the boundary, the picture behind Jalen Mills still needs to be cleared up. Malcolm Butler, Jack Jones, and Terrance Mitchell will be expected to compete for reps there. That being said, Mitchell is a player who could be released and brought back in the initial roster shuffling. Justin Bethel could also factor in to this rotation, as he did at times last year.

    In the slot, Jonathan Jones returns after missing most of last season with a shoulder injury. With Marcus Jones spending the spring in a red non-contact jersey following offseason shoulder surgery, we’ll assume the Patriots don’t want to rush him back, and place him on PUP or ERIR with Myles Bryant and Shaun Wade competing for the backup job. Bryant gets the nod given his versatility to also give the team snaps as safety.

  • Safety (4)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - JANUARY 02: New England Patriots players celebrate after an interception by Kyle Dugger #23 in the third quarter of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – JANUARY 02: New England Patriots players celebrate after an interception by Kyle Dugger #23 in the third quarter of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Gillette Stadium on January 02, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    –Kyle Dugger
    –Devin McCourty
    –Jabrill Peppers
    –Adrian Phillips

    Although there’s only four players, this may be one of the Patriots’ most complete positional groups. Dugger, McCourty, and Phillips were all impact players last season, and they’re joined by a player with significant untapped potential in Peppers. As mentioned above, Myles Bryant could add depth here as well.

    2021 sixth-round pick Joshuah Bledsoe sits on the bubble here. Bledsoe would add depth not only at safety but on special teams as well. He may be a player the team could get on the practice squad and elevate as needed.

  • Special teams (5)

    Matthew Slater #18 of the New England Patriots celebrates after a missed field goal by the New York Jets during the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 24, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Matthew Slater #18 of the New England Patriots celebrates after a missed field goal by the New York Jets during the first half at Gillette Stadium on October 24, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    –Nick Folk (K)
    –Jake Bailey (P)
    –Joe Cardona (LS)
    –Matthew Slater (Coverage)
    –Cody Davis (Coverage)

    No surprises here. If anything is going to change in this group, it would be UDFA Brenden Schooler making a run at the roster as another coverage specialist. He’ll be a player to watch in the preseason.

  • On the bubble

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 8, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the New England Patriots minicamp at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Here’s a quick look at the last three players that were cut (not including PUP/IR players), and the last three left on the roster.

    Last three off:

    –Tre Nixon
    –Daniel Ekuale
    –Shaun Wade

    Last three on:

    –J.J. Taylor
    –Terrance Mitchell
    –William Sherman