The most depressing date on the NFL calendar is upon us. Cut-down day marks the deadline where 80-man preseason rosters have to be trimmed to 53. While teams will angle and swap out back-end players with waiver wire additions in the week that follows, no single moment matches the sheer, job-losing carnage of Tuesday’s 3 p.m. deadline.
Several notable names have already been cut, including former New England Patriot starters like Josh Gordon, Malcolm Butler and Sony Michel. But it may be a pair of fairly anonymous Pats that illustrate the struggles Bill Belichick is facing in 2022.
In 2020, Belichick made UCLA’s Devin Asiasi the 27th pick of the third round of that year’s draft. 10 selections later, he landed on Cincinnati’s Dalton Keene. The two tight end prospects were supposed to fill the void left behind by Rob Gronkowski’s departure and help whichever quarterback would fill Tom Brady’s shoes after the future Hall of Famer decamped for Tampa Bay (it turned out to be Cam Newton).
Instead, neither man made much of an impact. Keene was released August 21. Asiasi will reportedly follow him nine days later. Together, these are their total receiving stats in two pro seasons:
- five catches
- 55 yards
- one touchdown
That is … whew. We knew things were bad when Belichick handed out more than $87 million in contract value to bring veterans Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith to New England. But neither Keene nor Asiasi could hang on to a fringe roster spot as a third or fourth tight end, leaving the Patriots with almost nothing to show for two high value draft picks at a vital time in the franchise’s history.
Whiffing on both Asiasi and Keene meant devoting salary cap resources to Henry and Smith — money that could have been spent elsewhere on new additions or to retain valued starters like JC Jackson and Shaq Mason this spring. Instead, it sliced talent from an already thin roster and potentially set the team’s post-Brady rebuild back an undetermined length of time.