The New England Patriots have too many wide receivers and not enough spots available to keep them all. With the release of newly acquired Anthony Gonzalez earlier this week, loosening the logjam has already begun.
The Patriots have worked hard this offseason to fix the depth problem the team had in 2011. In doing so, they’ve created a logjam at the position. There are eleven receivers currently on the Patriots roster and the team is likely to keep either five or six. Two will probably be kept on the practice squad and the remaining three or four will be released.
Two spots seem to be already secured on the roster for the 2012. Those spots belong to Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd. Welker was the Patriots top receiver in 2011 and was given the franchise tag going into 2012. Lloyd was signed to be the deep threat that the Patriots lacked last season. The two pro bowlers will be the top two receivers come September.
Players that are likely to make the team are Deion Branch and Jabar Gaffney. After being drafted by the Patriots in 2002, Branch left the team to join the Seattle Seahawks in 2006 after two Super Bowl victories and winning the Super Bowl MVP in 2004. He returned in 2010 and was the Patriots second most productive receiver in 2011. Gaffney had a three-year stint with the Patriots from 2006 to 2008. During those three years he developed a great working relationship with quarterback Tom Brady becoming one of Brady’s favorite receivers of his career.
The remaining eight receivers are not guaranteed spots on the roster for 2012. The most experienced of the remaining receivers are Chad Ochocinco and Donte’ Stallworth. Ochocinco joined the Patriots in 2011 and had the least productive season of his illustrious career. Stallworth played one season for the Patriots in 2007 and re-signed this offseason but has never duplicated the success he had in New Orleans. If he makes the team, Stallworth would be near the bottom of the depth chart.
The young receivers are much less likely to make the final roster for September. It’s still unclear what will happen with four-year veteran Julian Edelman. Edelman played a good deal of defense in 2011 and it is an option to play him at the weakest position for the Patriots in 2012. The other returning players are Britt Davis and Matthew Slater. Davis and Slater have minimal experience and don’t look to be part of the team in 2012 though they could join the practice squad and be available if injuries occur.
With this logjam at receiver, the two most unlucky players are the rookies Jeremy Ebert and Matt Roark. The Patriots are looking poised for another Super Bowl run in 2012 and with the experience on the roster it would be incredibly difficult for these two to break into the team. Like Davis and Slater, they will join the practice squad or be given their release.
Despite his experience, Donte’ Stallworth will be the next Patriots receiver released. His age of 31 shows he is not likely to be around for the future of the team and he doesn’t show any special reason why he would make a difference. Depending on how the Patriots feel about Ochocinco and whether they will be willing to have Edelman play defense, one of them would be next. If they keep those two receivers, the next release will fall on Davis and Slater.
The Patriots have created a logjam of receivers this offseason and now have to clean it up. Difficult decisions have to be made as to who will be on the final roster come September. They got the ball rolling by releasing Anthony Gonzalez but as they continue to attempt to fix the problem, the decisions will be much tougher.