FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots have until Wednesday to make a decision on whether to activate rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett to their 53-man roster, and a case can be made for both options.
Brissett has been practicing since Dec. 1 but hasn't counted on the Patriots' 53-man roster as part of the NFL's designated-to-return injured reserve rules. If the Patriots want him to continue practicing this week and into the remainder of the season, they will need to clear a spot on the 53-man roster by Wednesday.
Late last week, Bill Belichick said, "If there was an obvious decision to be made, we probably would’ve already made it. There may be a certain event or set of circumstances that would influence that decision."
Such an event would have been a season-ending injury to a player on the roster in Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos, but that didn't happen. Thus, the Patriots have multiple factors to weigh with the decision.
BENEFITS TO ACTIVATING BRISSETT
1. No position is more important than quarterback, and adding a third layer of insurance for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs assures that the Patriots won't get caught short-handed.
2. A third-round pick out of NC State, Brissett's development is contingent on practicing. If the Patriots don't activate him to the 53-man roster, Brissett can no longer practice, which takes a month's worth of practices out of his potential growth.
3. Having a third quarterback at practice also limits the wear and tear on Tom Brady in practice, while keeping the offense functioning at a high level.
DRAWBACKS TO ACTIVATING BRISSETT
1. Because he wouldn't be active on game day with Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo ahead of him, Brissett would be taking the roster spot of a player who potentially could be needed at a different position.
2. Activating Brissett potentially could expose a player to the waiver wire, allowing another team to claim a player the Patriots would otherwise be able to protect.
All signs have pointed to Brissett ultimately being activated to the 53-man roster, as he's traveled on road trips to be around the team, which is outside the norm for a player on IR. Being on the sideline, and part of the game-day operation, was viewed as a good learning tool for Brissett. But the issue is what player becomes expendable to move him to the roster.
The place to look is on the team's most recent game-day inactive lists, and the most likely options would be players such as defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton, offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle, safety Jordan Richards, cornerback Justin Coleman and running back D.J. Foster.
But if the Patriots elect to waive a player such as Foster, for example, there is a high likelihood they could lose him because this is the time of year when teams often are more willing to make a waiver claim with a young promising prospect with 2017 in mind. Ditto for Hamilton.
Meanwhile, shaving offensive tackle depth with Waddle would be risky, especially given the usage of No. 3 tackle Cameron Fleming as a blocking tight end.
That leaves the two defensive backs -- Richards and Coleman -- as perhaps the top candidates in the event Brissett is activated. Richards would be an IR candidate (knee), but his loss could hurt special teams. Coleman would have to clear waivers, and the question would be if the Patriots are willing to take that risk. The thought from here is that Brissett will be activated and the corresponding move will be either Richards or Coleman.