The Patriots have an open roster spot, here are their top options to fill it
October 19th, 2022
As the Patriots begin their extended week getting ready to face the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football next week, they do so with two open spots on their team – including one on the active roster. Those spots were opened on Monday, with IR placement of safety and special teamer Cody Davis, and release of practice squad kicker Tristan Vizcaino.
Davis left Sunday’s win over the Browns early and did not return. The 33-year-old has played 72 percent of the Patriots’ special teams snaps this year. On Wednesday morning, Bill Belichick noted Davis played on five different units in the kicking game, and will be “a player that is impossible to replace one-for-one.” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport later reported Davis will undergo season-ending knee surgery.
Will the Patriots be able to fill Davis’ spot with players already on the roster, or will they need to use that open roster spot to add a special teamer? If not, who could get added to the 53-man roster? With an eye on the practice squad, here are the top candidates…
UPDATE: The Patriots have reportedly signed wide receiver/special teamer Raleigh Webb off the Ravens’ practice squad, per ESPN’s Field Yates. Still, these names are players to watch for roster spots opening in the future.
Oct 10, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; New England Patriots inside linebacker Jamie Collins (58) reacts with defensive end Deatrich Wise (91) and nose tackle Davon Godchaux (92) after getting a sack during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Collins has been on the Patriots’ practice squad since early October, but has not yet been elevated for a game. At the time of his signing, Belichick seemed to suggest he may not be ready for game action. When asked about the plan for Collins moving forward, he said “we’ll see. Jamie is coming off post-season surgery last year. We’ll see where he’s at.”
The Patriots have now had almost three weeks to evaluate Collins. While it’s not a perfect comparison, that’s about the amount of ramp-up time Marcus Cannon had between being signed and seeing the field.
If Collins is ready, he could fill a number of roles for the Patriots as he has in the past. He has the ability to play both inside and outside linebacker, and could contribute in the kicking game as well.
WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey
Aug 19, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Lil’Jordan Humphrey (83) runs the ball as Carolina Panthers cornerback Madre Harper (36) closes in during the second half of a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
Despite bouncing back and forth between the active roster and practice squad, Humphrey has appeared in all six games for the Patriots this year. He was elevated from the practice squad for the opener, signed the next week through Week 5, sent back to the practice squad last week and then elevated again.
Clearly, the Patriots like having Humphrey available on gamedays. However, teams are limited to elevating players from the practice squad a maximum of three times over the course of the season, meaning Humphrey only has one left in New England. If the team were to put him back on the roster – at least temporarily – it would expand his availability.
RB J.J. Taylor
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – AUGUST 19: J.J. Taylor #42 of the New England Patriots runs the ball during the preseason game between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium on August 19, 2022 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
With Damien Harris reportedly expected to miss ‘multiple games’ with a hamstring injury, the Patriots added rookie Kevin Harris to the active roster last week off the practice squad. However Harris wasn’t heavily involved in the game plan – he was on the field for 17 percent of the Patriots’ offensive snaps and touched the ball just three times.
That’s not totally surprising given the Patriots’ history of limiting non-first-round pick rookie running backs, but as long as Harris is out they need another option to spell Rhamondre Stevenson, or they risk the dynamic second-year back wearing down before the schedule gets tough again late in the season. Taylor could be that guy, with 11 games of NFL experience under his belt – all with the Patriots’ offense.
LB Calvin Munson
Dec 13, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins linebacker Calvin Munson (48) warms up prior to the game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium. Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
If the Patriots’ feel that Davis’ absence is significant enough that they need to add a special teams-focused player, Munson would be the guy. He was signed to the practice squad last week for what is his third stint in New England. During his six-game run with the Patriots last year he played 65 percent of the team’s special teams snaps.
An offensive tackle
Aug 19, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste (72) lines up during the first half of a preseason game against the Carolina Panthers at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports
So, this one is a bit more open ended. Right now, the Patriots’ tackle depth is thin – they have Trent Brown as an established starter on the left side, then Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon rotating on the right side. Those are the only players they have at the position, including the practice squad.
With Wynn’s job status up in the air (he’s been benched twice in the last three weeks), that lack of depth is in the spotlight even more. It seems as though adding a tackle would add a level of security at an important position.
The question is, who would they add? As mentioned above, there are no tackles currently on the practice squad. Yodny Cajuste is still a week away from being eligible to return from IR (he was dealing with a thumb injury) but it’s not a guarantee he’ll be cleared to play even once he’s eligible.
Even if the Patriots don’t add a tackle to their roster, it would make sense to add one to the practice squad to fill the spot opened up by Vizcaino’s release. If they go that route, Sebastian Gutierrez would be a player to watch – he was on the practice squad for a bit earlier this season but was released last week.
Alex Barth is a writer and 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. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarthor via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.