Took my first stab at the Patriots' "final" 53-man roster in the paper last week.
I put that in parenthesis because the chances are high the Patriots will look at the waiver wire to see if they can improve in a spot or two (offensive tackle, special teams linebacker). The Patriots' roster, as with most teams, is a work in progress and not static.
Here's my second go at the final 53, and you'll notice a couple surprising names. This is the roster I project the Patriots to pick, not what I would do. I'll explain my rationale below. Names in purple are game day inactives.
- The two big names are RB Danny Woodhead, and DE Jermaine Cunningham. They, along with OG Donald Thomas, WR Julian Edelman, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, LB Tracy White, LB Jeff Tarpinian and CB Alfonzo Dennard represent the true bubble boys.
- I have Brian Waters on the team. Until he retires or he doesn't show up the week of the first game, I'm keeping him there. If Waters does not return, that frees up a spot on offense, and not necessarily the line. I'd keep Woodhead and have some linemen ready on practice squad.
- Another big wild card is Shiancoe. I have no idea about his medicals, but the team did pay him a $400,000 bonus -- almost as much as Deion Branch and Jabar Gaffney combined ($500,000). How much more money can the Patriots eat after Jonathan Fanene?
- If the Patriots cut their losses with Shiancoe, then Woodhead is back on the team.
- My thinking on Woodhead: With Jeff Demps' arrival, Woodhead is the only running back not on special teams. Undrafted RB Brandon Bolden is all over them. Do I think Woodhead should be on the team? Absolutely. To me, it's either Woodhead or Bolden, and my gut tells me the team is leaning more towards Bolden. It's a long shot, but I wouldn't be totally shocked if the Patriots took a hard look at Shane Vereen's spot. He has underwhelmed since he got here. Vereen will likely get another year, but you never know.
- What about Woodhead's role as third-down back? Sure seems like a good spot for one of the many tight ends, especially Hernandez. Demps is going to be thrown in there as well. So how many snaps is Woodhead going to get?
- As for Cunningham, it comes down to him or Trevor Scott for me. And, again, Scott has the edge on special teams. These are the types of discussions the Patriots will be having at final cutdown. Personally, I'd keep Cunningham and Scott -- and cut LB Jeff Tarpinian, but he's on three of the four core special teams units. It seems like special teams coach Scotty O'Brien loves Tarpinian, who has assumed many of Dane Fletcher's roles.