The New England Patriots are inching closer to roster cut-down and have already begun trimming the team with a few significant cuts already.
On Sunday, the Patriots released veteran wide receiver Maurice Harris, according to ESPN’s Field Yates. The move comes after fellow receiver Josh Gordon practiced in full pads for the first time on Sunday, signalling his removal from the Non-Football Injury list.
Harris suffered an injury during joint practices against the Tennessee Titans. Up to that point, it appeared Harris was a virtual lock to make the roster with uncertainty whether Gordon and Demaryius Thomas would be available by the start of the regular season.
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In the opening game of preseason, Harris caught three passes for 27 yards including a 14-yard touchdown from Brian Hoyer — New England’s first touchdown of the 2019 season. He was making significant strides during training camp, taking reps with Tom Brady and the first-team offense while appearing a likely candidate to crack the final roster.
Josh Gordon Activated
The news of Harris being released came on the same day as Josh Gordon participated in practice with full pads for the first time. He was officially removed from the NFI list and is cleared to play effective immediately, according to Ian Rapoport.
Gordon was reinstated from his indefinite suspension just over a week ago and was immediately added to the NFI List upon rejoining the team. Per the NFL, he was not to play in the Patriots’ third preseason game given his lack of proper conditioning.
The Patriots’ receiving corps has been coming back gradually over the last couple weeks. Julian Edelman and Demaryius Thomas were activated off the PUP list in the last week with Gordon’s return Sunday adding more depth. That leaves N’Keal Harry as the lone receiver still banged up with a couple minor injuries suffered against Detroit two weeks back.
Long Road for Harris
Harris was undrafted in 2016 after spending four seasons with California. He finished his career with 1,000 career receiving yards for the Golden Bears and only 10 touchdowns.
He was signed by Washington in 2016 where he immediately latched on as a role player and depth receiver. Harris caught his first and only career touchdown pass in 2017.
It wasn’t until last season Harris had a breakout year, starting seven of the 12 games he played and reeling in 28 catches for 304 yards. He was even used in the rushing game as well on a couple of occasions.
Given his experience as a starter and potential special teams contributor, it’s hard to believe this is the end of the line in the NFL for Harris. With good length as an outside target, Harris did struggle with drops in the latter part of training camp but did show promise at times.
The spring was when Harris made waves, looking like a reliable weapon in the passing game and even seemed like a viable starting option. But his stock dropped when he was hurt during joint practices with the Titans, giving other bubble receivers the chance to pass him on the depth chart.