By: Steve Balestrieri
“The coach wants to see you and bring your playbook.”
Those are the words no one wants to hear and for many players across the league, that’s exactly what will happen to them in the upcoming days.
The New England Patriots still have two moves to make on Tuesday to get down to the 75 man roster limit, but the really big cut-down will happen on Aug. 31 when they release the bulk of their training camp players to get to the 53 man roster mandated by the league.
|Leon Washington could be a surprise cut for the Patriots on Aug. 31. (SBalestrieri photo)|
And those cuts after the final preseason game against the Giants may include four notable veteran players.
These players are listed in no particular order but these veterans are possible candidates to find themselves on the unemployment lines.
Jermaine Cunningham- The former 2nd round pick from Florida has been battling injuries all through training camp and hasn’t appeared in a preseason game yet. Cunningham returned to practice on Monday, although he was limited and worked with the strength and conditioning coaches on the lower practice fields during the session.
Cunningham has largely underachieved as a member of the Patriots although the team did play him out of position for a time last season as an interior pass rusher. His versatility may just land him back on the 53 man roster; however a lack of production and a bust for PEDs last season also work against him.
Chances Of Release: 50-50 even money, Cunningham hasn’t produced like you’d like to see a 2nd round pick and he disappeared after his return from suspension in 2012. Still he could still conceivably land on IR since he’s been dinged up all preseason.
Daniel Fells- The big tight end signed from the Broncos in 2012 is another player who is hurting right now. Fells is a big, (6’4, 260) in-line blocker but with a limited ability to produce in the passing game.
It was hoped that either he or Michael Hoomanawanui would be able to add more to the passing game early this year until the Gronk returns. And while Fells flashed at times this summer, he was eclipsed by the rookie Zach Sudfeld.
Chances Of Release: 65 percent, With the return to health of Jake Ballard who is another excellent in-line blocker, Fells becomes expendable. Ballard could eventually offer more in the pass catching realm as well as he rounds into shape. Hoomanawanui offers the versatility of playing either TE or H-Back. Fells also could still end up on IR.
Leon Washington- Washington was signed as a free agent this spring to help bolster the kicking game and add an extra third down presence at running back. But the 8 year veteran hasn’t been able to flash much at all during the first three preseason games returning only four kickoffs and a few punts up to this point.
With the Patriots having other options at returning kicks, Julian Edelman, Matthew Slater, Josh Boyce and even LaGarrette Blount, Washington could find himself on the outside looking in.
Chances Of Release: 35 percent, Bill Belichick was asked about Washington at a press conference last week and stated that so far, Washington hasn’t had any blocking on the kickoffs and hasn’t had any room to run. He’s still a dangerous return man and the team may opt to work on that more and give him more room to maneuver.
Adrian Wilson- The big physical safety signed from Arizona was signed to give the Patriots that big in-the-box presence that they’ve been missing since Rodney Harrison left town. The other role envisioned for him is the ‘Money’ position, replacing a linebacker in dime coverage and playing down close to the line of scrimmage.
Wilson hasn’t had the greatest of camps leading some to question whether he has anything left in the tank at this stage of his career. And at 33, the 13 year veteran does have some mileage on his body. In many cases, albeit against teams that throw downfield more, the team has played Steve Gregory next to FS Devin McCourty.
Chances Of Release: 40 percent, the player that many experts thought would challenge Wilson for the starting SS position Tavon Wilson, has slid down the depth charts and was generally playing with the twos and threes during camp.
While Wilson isn’t the player he was a few years ago, he can still play effectively in the box and his role seems to be tailor made for him replacing a linebacker and covering tight ends and blitzing the quarterback.