NEPD Staff Writer: Matthew Jones
Even though Bill Belichick added some drama to the situation, the Patriots finally made their rosters public. Here is who won’t be making the Patriots roster.
New England’s final cut as the team trimmed its roster down to 75 players was wide receiver Jabar Gaffney, who had been expected to make the final roster. Gaffney had previously played for New England from 2006-2008 and followed offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to Denver from 2009-2010 before signing a two-year deal back in May. The 31 year-old receiver had missed time with a hamstring injury which prevented him from appearing in the preseason games against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. The move is surprising because of Gaffney’s familiarity within New England’s system as well as with Tom Brady. The move suggests that 33 year-old wide receiver Deion Branch will make the 2012 roster; seventh-round pick Jeremy Ebert’s chances of making the roster are augmented as well, although he is considered far from a lock.
Following the release of Gaffney, New England moved quickly to claim undrafted free agent Kerry Taylor off of waivers; he had been waived by the Minnesota Vikings during their roster cutdowns. Taylor is expected to compete with Ebert for the sixth wide receiver spot.
The first player cut on Monday was Massachusetts native and Boston College alum Tim Bulman, a 6’4″, 280-pound defensive end/tackle. Bulman spent the 2005 season as an undrafted free agent with the Arizona Cardinals before joining the Houston Texans in 2006 and playing with them through last season; he signed with New England in late July. The 29 year-old lineman was most effective in 2008, when he recorded four sacks. Bulman had been attempting to make the roster as a reserve lineman and special teams contributor, but New England’s depth at both defensive line spots as well as on their coverage units proved too much; Bulman did not establish a role on multiple coverage units in the preseason and fell behind New England’s other defensive linemen on the depth chart. Bulman ultimately lacked the burst to beat offensive tackles to the edge as a defensive end as well as the bulk to hold up against the run inside. The seventh-year player’s best chance of sticking on a roster will come as a depth/rotational player.
Wide receiver Donte’ Stallworth was the next player cut by the team; he had been locked in a roster battle with Deion Branch which continued throughout training camp and into the preseason. Stallworth initially appeared to have the edge on Branch, receiving more reps in camp, but battled drops all year and proved too inconsistent an option. Stallworth also appeared to have some problems separating down the field at times. Like Bulman, Stallworth’s fate was determined by the depth of his personnel group; he fell behind Branch, Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, and Jabar Gaffney on the depth chart. Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater are also expected to make the final roster. During the third week of the preseason, Stallworth was utilized as a punt returner during the third week and could draw some interest from other teams in that capacity or as a reserve target. The 32 year-old Stallworth had previously played for New England in 2007, when he caught 46 passes for 697 yards and three touchdowns.
Fullback Spencer Larsen was placed on IR; Larsen had missed a significant amount of time due to injury this season after signing a two-year, $1.7 million contract with the Patriots back in March which included a $250,000 signing bonus. Larsen was finally able to make it onto the field during New England’s 30-28 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but injured his leg and did not return to the game; it is unknown whether or not he will be released with an injury settlement. The 28 year-old played linebacker for the Arizona Wildcats in college but eventually converted to fullback during his NFL career and was regarded as a decent receiving option in Denver (14 catches for 127 yards and one touchdown.) Larsen had been expected to contribute on New England’s special teams units as well. At the beginning of the offseason it appeared as though New England had a roster spot available for at least one fullback; the Patriots had signed two fullbacks – Larsen and Tony Fiammetta – to compete with Eric Kettani for a roster spot. Fiammetta is currently on the reserve/left squad list, while Kettani is considered unlikely to make the 53-man roster.
The Patriots placed tight end Jake Ballard on the physically-unable-to-perform list, meaning he is ineligible to appear in the team’s first six games; Ballard is expected to be placed on injured reserve at that point as he recovers from ACL surgery as well as microfracture surgery.
In addition to Larsen, New England placed CB Will Allen and S Josh Barrett on injured reserve; Barrett had been waived by the club yesterday. The Patriots also placed tight end Jake Ballard, offensive tackle Markus Zusevics, and defensive tackle Myron Pryor on the physically-unable-to-perform list, meaning they are ineligible to appear in the team’s first six games; Ballard is expected to be placed on injured reserve at that point as he recovers from ACL surgery as well as microfracture surgery. Zusevics and Pryor are considered more likely to return at that point in the season. Zusevics tore his pectoral muscle at the NFL Draft Combine in Feburary, while Pryor missed the end of last season with a back injury; both players started training camp on the PUP list.