Andrew Callahan: 50/50 shot Zappe comes back to Patriots this season
Tuesday’s roster cutdown day saw plenty of players waived across the NFL. For the New England Patriots, one surprising release came by way of backup quarterback Bailey Zappe. Not to mention third- and fourth-string QBs Malik Cunningham and Trace McSorley were also placed on waivers. Mac Jones is the only quarterback left standing on the roster.
Parts of conversation are abbreviated for clarity.
Rich: What was your first reaction when you found out that Bailey Zappe had been waived?
Andrew Callahan: Whoa! And then I probably said it one more time. Then I said, “Okay, where does this put the Patriots? Who are they going to contact next?”
So, I reached out to some people who might be close to Colt McCoy, and I didn’t hear anything back. Because to me, he’s the number-one option on the free agent market. And, to be clear, this is not like free agency in March. This is late August.
I think Zappe could still come back, but yes, it was a surprise.
Rich: Is there a chance that Zappe doesn’t get picked up by another team? It sounds like the Patriots are banking on him returning to the team and being on the practice squad. I think they wanted to find space for one of their thousand offensive linemen.
Andrew Callahan: I would say there’s about a 50-percent chance that Zappe gets picked up by another team. Something that people forget, anyone that you claimable off waivers, you have to put them on your 53-man roster. And they have to stay there for three weeks.
So, a team that picks him up will be one that values him more than their current backup quarterback or maybe even their third-string quarterback. That team would most likely want to keep him around and see his future potential.
Many of us in New England saw more potential in Zappe than we ever expected last year. But we haven’t seen that same guy this year in training camp. So these teams are saying, “Okay, the most recent data we have on this guy is not as relevant.
“We still bank his performance last year and all the mess that was going on with Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. We want to bring him in.”
I’m not so certain that’s going to happen. I think the Patriots are banking on him clearing waivers.
Wallach: Interestingly enough, that wasn’t the only weird thing to happen with the Patriots’ roster yesterday. The team now has two running backs and 11 offensive linemen. What’s the strategy here?
Andrew Callahan: I wrote about this for the Boston Herald today. The way I see it, the Patriots are now paying for their failures in the offseason. They didn’t lock up enough starting offensive linemen. If you keep 11 offensive linemen, you’ll need all of them as an insurance policy in case someone gets injured or doesn’t pan out.
The good thing is that Cole Strange and Mike Onwenu are back at practice. And Riley Reiff is somewhere around the trainer’s room. Even if those guys get fully healthy, you don’t know what to expect from Calvin Anderson and Riley Reiff.
So, yes, loading up on 11 offensive linemen comes at the cost of other positions. If you had instead just signed Orlando Brown Jr. or Mike McGlinchey, you would know what to expect from them.
Their starters will come back, and you’ll have confidence in them. But right now, they don’t have that confidence. We’re less than two weeks away from the season opener.
Wallach: What are the odds the Patriots kept Riley Reiff and Tyquan Thornton specifically to make sure they could eventually place them on injured reserve and clear a roster spot for someone they want?
Andrew Callahan: Very, very high. Like, the roster we see now is not one you’ll see at the opener. That’s the case every single year.
There will even be changes today. It’s a good point made by you. It’s something Belichick always reiterates. And it’s common practice across the league. So, yeah, I would expect at least one or two roster spots to open.
Some of this positional imbalance will eventually normalize. So, they’ll have more than two running backs and more quarterbacks by the opener.