The New England Patriots appear primed for another Super Bowl run. However, several veterans will need to be sent packing during 2017 training camp before that time comes.
Coming off an exciting Super Bowl win, the New England Patriots are facing sky-high expectations heading into the 2017 campaign. Based on the way the last few months have played out, though, I wouldn’t expect too much disappointment out of this squad next season.
The Patriots did some serious damage during free agency, hauling in a couple of impact players while also swinging a deal for Brandin Cooks. While I wouldn’t call this New England roster flawless by any means, it’s definitely an upgrade from a season ago. That fact has to worry the rest of the NFL after how dominant Bill Belichick and Co. were in 2016.
Before we can start talking repeats, though, we need to focus our attention on the next couple of months. Between OTAs and training camp, the Patriots will be looking to weed out the weak links while building the best 53-man roster possible. As a part of that process, several notable veterans could be shown the door.
It’s a tough part of the year, but that’s life in the NFL. Nothing is guaranteed, and a stay on any roster can end in an instant.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at five Patriots veterans who I believe won’t survive 2017 training camp. For one reason or another, they’ve simply worn out their welcome in New England and will soon find themselves looking for work elsewhere.
Coming out of college, Kyle Van Noy looked like a high-upside edge rusher. I mean, there’s a reason he came off the board in the second round. Unfortunately, he’s been little more than a disappointment through three NFL seasons.
Van Noy was originally drafted by the Detroit Lions, who watched injuries and inconsistent play muddle most of his first two and a half years in the league. Midway through the 2016 campaign, they threw in the towel, trading him and a seventh-round pick to the Patriots for a sixth-round pick. Essentially, they admitted defeat on what once looked like an exciting addition.
However, things didn’t get much better during his half season in New England. Despite playing 624 snaps, Van Noy only notched one sack while earning miserable grades from Pro Football Focus for run defense. I wouldn’t expect things to get much better this upcoming season.
Dont’a Hightower is back, and the Patriots still have Shea McClellin as a capable backup on the inside. If one of Trevor Bates or Jonathan Freeny shows well during camp, it could make Van Noy expendable heading into 2017. It’s a tough break for a former college star at linebacker.
At this moment, the Patriots are pretty much set at offensive tackle. Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon are cemented as the starters, with Cameron Fleming settled in as the swing tackle. That already makes it a difficult situation for a player such as LaAdrian Waddle to earn a roster spot.
Unfortunately, there’s more competition than that for a backup tackle job. New England also spent two of their four 2017 draft picks on offensive tackles. Antonio Garcia should immediately slide in as the heir apparent at left tackle, and Conor McDermott is an intriguing developmental talent.
So where does Waddle fit into the equation? It appears as though he doesn’t fit at all. He’s an average backup option at best, and doesn’t offer quite as much upside as the two incoming rookies. Even at 25 years of age, it appears the former undrafted rookie out of Texas Tech has just about hit his ceiling.
There’s a good chance even McDermott fails to earn a spot on the 53-man roster, instead being relegated to the practice squad. That’ll certainly leave Waddle without an NFL home, at least for the short term. Don’t be surprised to see the young, experienced tackle land on his feet quickly.
Honestly, Brandon Bolden is doomed and training camp hasn’t even began. Running back is arguably the Patriots’ deepest position right now. Despite his value as a productive special teamer, Bolden stands almost no chance of cracking the 53-man roster.
At this moment, he sits behind Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee on the depth chart. He’ll also face competition from D.J. Foster. Seeing as the Patriots will only keep four running backs (at most), it seems highly unlikely he beats four of the aforementioned backs for a job.
Bolden’s calling card through five seasons has been his general effectiveness as a receiver and on special teams. Unfortunately for him, Lewis, White and Burkhead all offer more value in the passing game. That makes him a rather one-dimensional option at a position that boasts a few players with far more versatility. Doesn’t sound like a promising situation, does it?
As an undrafted free agent, Bolden exceeded all expectations. However, all good things must come to an end. It’s been an impressive run for him in New England, but it’s looking like the end is near. Then again, maybe an injury will open a door for him to stick around–at least for the short term.
For the last four years, Danny Amendola has been a key piece to this New England passing game. Unfortunately, as the seasons have gone by, his effectiveness as a receiver has begun to dwindle. Now heading into 2017, the veteran receiver finally appears to be running out of gas.
Last season, Amendola watched his usage, targets and production plummet. In 12 games, he managed only 23 receptions and was a non-factor for most of the postseason. He obviously flashed some skill during the Super Bowl, but spent most of the season serving as the Patriots’ injury-prone No. 4 receiver.
What makes it worse for Amendola is he’s got a couple of younger options nipping at his heels. Malcolm Mitchell showed serious potential last season as a rookie, and fellow 2016 selection Devin Lucien should also get an opportunity to earn more snaps this offseason.
Tie in the fact that Cooks was acquired from the New Orleans Saints, and it seems like the Patriots are running out of room at receiver.
Amendola already took a pay cut to stick around this long, but that doesn’t guarantee him a roster spot. It’s not ideal taking on dead cap, but it appears there’s no longer room for the former undrafted free agent turned standout pass catcher.
For the most part, Patrick Chung has been one of the brighter spots on the New England defense for the last few years. However, when you take a deeper look at things, it’s not crazy to think that Chung could be on the roster bubble this offseason.
There are two reasons why I believe Chung could be on his way out in 2017. The first is that he isn’t nearly as stout of a defender as many make him out to be. According to Pro Football Focus, he finished the 2016 campaign ranked 83rd among 90 qualified safeties. His struggles in coverage were the driving force behind his miserable ranking.
The second part to this is that the Patriots have to get their young safeties on the field eventually. Duron Harmon and Jordan Richards are both behind Chung on the depth chart, and both deserve more snaps. Moving on from the incumbent starter would be a terrific opportunity to allow them more time on the field.
It’s another tough decision that will make life difficult for the New England coaching staff. And yet, it ultimately moves a more reliable player into a starting position while keeping the future of this franchise from splitting when their contracts are up. It’s been fun but it’s time to go, Pat.