Phil Perry

Bailey Zappe staying put? Projecting Patriots' 2023 practice squad

Phil Perry believes Bailey Zappe and Malik Cunningham shouldn't pack their bags just yet.

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When the Patriots announced the roster moves that led to the formation of their initial 53-man roster, there were some whoppers included.

No Bailey Zappe or Malik Cunningham meant that Mac Jones was the only quarterback kept on the roster. Bill Belichick opted to hold onto only two running backs and two tight ends.

Thanks in part to injuries, meanwhile, the Patriots kept six receivers and a wildly-high total of eleven offensive linemen.

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It's odd. No question. But the locker room will have a different look by the end of the day on Wednesday. Once younger players get through waivers, they'll have the ability to re-sign to the practice squad. Vets who aren't subject to waivers will have the ability to join the 16-man practice squad as well.

Without knowing how each and every roster machination will play out over the next few hours -- the Patriots could send individuals to injured reserve with a designation to return, which might open a roster spot for a player who didn't make the initial 53 -- here's one projection of how Belichick's practice squad could look.

Quarterback (2): Bailey Zappe, Malik Cunningham

Will Zappe clear waivers? His tape this summer might've been bad enough that he will get through without getting claimed.

New England's willingness to subject him to waivers is an indication they aren't dying to keep him around. But as a practice-squadder, he'd provide the Patriots a call-up option on game days. Is he an ideal No. 2 at this point? No. But at least he's been in the system. Will be difficult for the Patriots to land a quarterback who has any familiarity with what they're doing offensively at this point.

Cunningham, meanwhile, showed very little as a quarterback -- in part because he wasn't given much time there in preseason. And the extensive reps he got at wide receiver yielded very little in the way of production.

Never say never, but at this juncture, it's hard to envision a team would cut one of its own to use a 53-man roster spot on Cunningham. That means he'd be a sensible option to return as one of the 16.

UPDATE (1 p.m. ET): Zappe and Cunningham both cleared waivers and are signing with the Patriots' practice squad. Click here for an updated list of Patriots practice squad signings.

Running back (2): Ty Montgomery, Kevin Harris

Montgomery isn't subject to waivers, so he has the ability to sign with a team of his choosing. Given all the injuries he's dealt with in the last calendar year alone, his best bet of getting back to full health and contributing somewhere would likely be in New England.

Harris, meanwhile, would provide the team a "big back" who, with more time in the system, might develop a little more decisiveness near the line of scrimmage.

Wide receiver (2): Raleigh Webb, Thyrick Pitts

Webb's contributions would come primarily on special teams. We can count on Belichick valuing that phase enough to warrant dedicating a p-squad spot to kicking-game insurance. And probably more than one.

Pitts is an intriguing height-weight-speed player at a position where it's been difficult for the Patriots to develop real talent. 

Tight end (2): Matt Sokol, Anthony Firkser

The Patriots need some help at this spot -- even if it's practice-squad help -- if they're going to be utilizing as many two-tight end sets as it appears they will. In Sokol, they'd have a big-bodied blocker. In Firkser, they'd have more of a "move" option.

Offensive line (5): James Ferentz, Chasen Hines, Bill Murray, Kody Russey, Andrew Stueber

Big group here. That's no accident. Given all the injuries they've dealt with up front, they'll need players available to practice and keep reps for the active-roster players manageable.

Ferentz, Hines and Russey are good interior depth options -- Russey looked like the backup center at one point this summer, and Hines got reps in the huddle with Mac Jones at times -- while Stueber would be a depth tackle piece.

Murray has been used at both tackle and guard, and Belichick has praised his work ethic and toughness extensively in recent years. Can't imagine Belichick won't welcome Murray back with open arms.

Linebacker (2): Calvin Munson, Ronnie Perkins

One inside linebacker with a lot of special teams experience. One outside linebacker with some traits worth cultivating. Not a lot of options here, but two good ones who could end up being practice-squad priorities. 

Safety (1): Joshuah Bledsoe

The Patriots have four contributors here on the active roster, but if any of them were to go down -- taking both defensive and special-teams experience with them -- then one could picture Bledsoe being a game-day call-up.

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