Bubble watch: Mike Rivera

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

NAME: Mike Rivera


AGE: 27

2012 STATS: 10 games (1 start), 9 tackles

INJURY STATUS: No known injuries


WHY HE SHOULD MAKE IT: Rivera surprised many when he made the final cut for the Patriots last September, and even started a game late in the season against the 49ers. While he has limited upside as a defensive player, he provides value as a special teams contributor. Even if Dane Fletcher returns to form after a season-ending injury in 2012, Rivera could still have a role on the back end of the roster.

WHY HE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT: Fletcher's injury likely had much to do with Rivera making the 53-man roster last season, and after two games, he was cut in favor of veteran Niko Koutouvides. And while he later returned to New England, making the late-season start, the Patriots invested first-round (Jamie Collins) and seventh-round (Steve Beauharnais) draft picks in linebackers. It may take an injury to convince the Patriots to keep Rivera around in favor of younger options such as Beauharnais or Jeff Tarpinian.

CLOSEST COMPETITION: LB Steve Beauharnais, LB Jeff Tarpinian, LB Niko Koutouvides