FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Sharing a few thoughts on tight end Zach Sudfeld, who was waived by the Patriots on Thursday, being claimed by the Jets on Friday:
During Friday's media access period in the locker room, Sudfeld's locker remained intact. That seemed to be an indication that the Patriots hoped to bring Sudfeld back on the practice squad if he cleared waivers.
At the same time, the Patriots had to figure the chances of Sudfeld clearing were no sure thing. He had shown flashes in the preseason that would catch the attention of most teams who might have a need, or a luxury of time to develop him with a spot on the 53-man roster.
The Patriots, in part due to needs at other positions on the 53-man roster (e.g. defensive tackle), no longer had that luxury.
This highlights the balance that every team navigates between present needs and future potential.
Sudfeld clearly has promise and his August emergence in the preseason was highlighted in this space. In truth, I think his early preseason performance surprised the Patriots to a degree, as they initially projected he would probably take a year to develop. The timeline, at that point, had been accelerated.
But something happened in the transition from preseason to regular season, and suddenly, the game looked a bit too big for Sudfeld at times. He didn't record a regular-season reception, there was an interception on a pass intended for him in the season opener, and he was unable to field an onside kick in a Sept. 29 game against the Falcons.
With the Patriots not using as many two-TE sets, instead favoring a three-WR package, we started to forecast Sudfeld's dimishing role last week. Furthermore, because he's more of a receiver than a pure tight end, his value on the 53-man roster was transitioning to more about future potential than present contributions (he played just eight snaps Sunday night against the Falcons).
To sum it up, if the Patriots didn't have to address pressing issues related to winning games in the present, Sudfeld would probably still be on the roster in a "red-shirt" type role, likely as a game-day inactive.
But at this time, it was a luxury the Patriots felt they couldn't afford.
Time will tell if it's a decision they come to regret.