Monday afternoon was the deadline for NFL teams to cut their rosters from 90 to 75. The New England Patriots made some surprising decisions which gave renewed hope to some young receivers. The team unexpectedly released both Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth, two veterans which many expected to be on the roster for the beginning of the season.
The Patriots signing of Gaffney and Stallworth was seen as a way to add depth to a position that had very little last season. It was expected that on Monday the team would release the newly acquired Jesse Holley, one of their younger receivers, and possibly either Gaffney or Stallworth. But the Patriots made the surprising decision of releasing only the two veterans of their ten receivers.
The only guaranteed spots on the Patriots receiving corps so far have been the two star receivers, Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker. Deion Branch, Julian Edleman, and Matthew Slater were expected to be fighting for spots with Gaffney and Stallworth late into the preseason. Some of the expected cuts on Monday were Britt Davis, 2012 seventh round pick Jeremy Ebert, and Holley.
The Patriots now have eight receivers remaining on their roster with six expected to be on the roster when the NFL season starts September 9. While there are cuts still to be made, these two releases show that the Patriots like the development of their younger receivers.
Slater, Davis, and Ebert are the receivers that benefit most from this move as at least one or possibly all three were not expected to be on the team after Monday cuts. Edleman is expected to make the team due to his multiple abilities. In 2011, the receiver spent time at cornerback to help the Patriots depleted secondary and an ability to play multiple positions is a skill that head coach Bill Belichick rates highly.
Of the eight receivers still on the roster, Jesse Holley is the most unexpected to still be with the team. Earlier this summer Holley signed with the Patriots part-way through training camp. It seemed as though he didn’t have enough time to survive the first round of cuts but the Patriots decided to keep the (find age)-year old on for at least a few more days.
The six receivers still battling for a spot on the Patriots opening roster have the rest of this week to prove themselves. Friday is the deadline for NFL teams to announce their final 53-man roster. But for those still on the fringe of making the team, Monday’s decision gives them greater hope and a greater chance of reaching their goal.