Bubble watch: Niko Koutouvides

(Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2013.)

NAME: Niko Koutouvides

POSITION: Linebacker

AGE: 32

2012 STATS: 14 games, 4 tackles

INJURY STATUS: No known injuries.


WHY HE SHOULD MAKE IT: Koutouvides is the Patriots' most experienced special teams player, and even at 32, would provide a steady presence in that phase of the game. Even after Koutouvides was released during final cuts last season, he returned to the team in Week 3, and remained on the 53-man roster through the balance of the season. It would hardly be a shock if Koutouvides, who seems to fit well within the locker room and the overall program, finds a way back into the mix this fall.

WHY HE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT: With the Patriots spending second-round (Jamie Collins) and seventh-round (Steve Beauharnais) draft picks this April on linebackers, it puts a squeeze on players already within the system to hold onto their jobs. It's unlikely that Beauharnais, whose draft status puts him on the roster bubble, would make as great an impact on special teams as Koutouvides, who has been in the NFL since 2004. But if the Patriots want to hold onto their younger pieces, it could come at the expense of players such as Koutouvides.

CLOSEST COMPETITION: LB Steve Beauharnais, LB Jeff Tarpinian, LB Mike Rivera