The Patriots began shaping their 53-man roster Friday, sending fourth-year safety Jordan Richards to the Falcons.
The Patriots are getting a conditional seventh-round pick as the return for Richards. ESPN reported that the pick will be in the 2020 draft. Richards, who has been on the roster bubble all summer, started and played a good portion of Thursday night’s preseason win over the Giants, registering one tackle.
The 5-foot-11-inch, 210-pound Richards was a heavy hitter and core special teamer. He took over the punt protector’s role after Nate Ebner was hurt last year. A second-round selection in 2015 out of Stanford, Richards was tried in a variety of spots — including hybrid linebacker, where he could attack the box — but never really carved out a role and struggled in coverage.
The move helps clear a logjam in the secondary and likely secures a spot for Jason McCourty, the veteran cornerback who added safety to his résumé over the last two games of the season.
“Nothing will be different for me this year than it’s been in prior years,’’ McCourty said Thursday night, when asked if he had a roster concern. “I really don’t concern myself with what goes on, especially this being Year 10.
“I’ve probably exceeded every expectation I had for myself, going into my rookie year of what my NFL career would be. So whatever happens here, happens. You put it in God’s hands. You play your best. However it goes down, it goes down.’’
The Patriots have an excellent safety trio in Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Duron Harmon, often playing them all at the same time. McCourty and Chung are extremely versatile and rarely leave the field. Harmon is the rangy center fielder.