The New England Patriots had an NFL-high eight players opt-out of the 2020 seasons due to COVID-19 concerns. Most of them have been released or traded.
The three that remain are Dont’a Hightower, Matt LaCosse, and Brandon Bolden. Hightower will definitely be on the roster when Week 1 rolls around. LaCosse had a decent minicamp, but he’s a longshot to make the team with new signings Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry, plus the impressive performance from second-year-pro Devin Asiasi this offseason.
Bolden is a 31-year-old running back and special teams expert.
He’s been on two previous Patriots Super Bowl champion squads. Despite a crowded running back room, Bolden is still considered a good bet to make the 53-man roster by some. USA Today’s Henry McKenna went as far as to call Bolden a lock to make the team.
In a piece designed to shine a light on Bolden’s heartfelt decision to switch his jersey number from No. 38 to No. 25, McKenna wrote:
Bolden’s been an integral part of the Patriots as a special teamer and back for seven of those seasons and he’s on the latter part of his most recent two-year contract. The 31-year-old will be a lock for the 53-man roster, but this year he’ll be sporting a No. 25 jersey.
Bolden will be honoring his uncle, a former professional player, who wore No. 25 during his career.
That’s a great gesture, but it was also notable someone considered Bolden a “lock” to make the roster.
Others Believe Bolden Will Make the Roster as Well
98.5 The Sports Hub’s Alex Barth included Bolden on his roster in a recent prediction piece. Barth has the Patriots keeping Bolden, James White, rookie Rhamondre Stevenson, Sony Michel, Damien Harris, and J.J. Taylor.
According to Barth, Bolden will benefit from the team’s need for veteran depth at running back, and his special teams versatility. Barth wrote:
The two closest ‘bubble’ players are Brandon Bolden and J.J. Taylor. Bolden’s special teams role could be filled by a number of other players on the roster, but it’s actually his ability to provide depth in the backfield that keeps him on the team. There could be a need for a veteran back if Damien Harris and/or Sony Michel get hurt. As for Taylor, he showed too much promise last year in his brief stint on the active roster to move on from him just yet. Both Bolden and Taylor are benefited by Stevenson’s rookie status, and the fact the Patriots rarely play first-year backs.
That’s solid reasoning, but while Stevenson might be a little raw, he offers some versatility and mental intangibles that could work to push him more firmly up the depth chart.
Not Everyone Believes Bolden is a Lock for the 53-Man Roster
Musket Fire’s Jerry Trotta isn’t so sure Bolden will be returning to the Patriots this season. He cites age, Stevenson’s presence and a special teams unit that “didn’t skip a beat” without Bolden.
Trotta said this about Bolden’s contract:
And finally, we arrive at Bolden’s contract. While the 31-year-old will only account for a $1.97 million cap hit for next season, his deal comes with just $500,000 in dead money, meaning New England could free up approximately $1.5 million in cap space by cutting him. The Patriots currently have over $20 million in remaining cap space, so it’s not like cutting Bolden will make a huge difference either way. We’re just saying don’t be surprised if you’ve seen the last of the eight-year pro in a Patriots uniform.
Bolden is seemingly great for the locker room and a proven performer in short-yardage situations and on special teams, but Trotta’s take is feasible.
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