The addition of Jabar Gaffney to the crowded New England Patriots receiver crew has already claimed one victim: Tiquan Underwood. By the start of the regular season, the Patriots will have to cut a few more notable names.
Chad Ochocinco certainly has the most Twitter followers of those players who could be left out of the mix. Let's examine how the entire group breaks down:
Roster locks: Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker
The Patriots didn't give Lloyd a handsome contract in order to cut him. Welker is unsigned and Gaffney's signing gives Welker less leverage in contract talks. Ultimately, the Patriots control Welker's rights. He's not going anywhere, although a long holdout could allow an extra receiver to make the team.
Slater is 26 years old and made the Pro Bowl in 2011. He's been on the roster four years. It's hard to imagine him not making the team. Edelman is wildly versatile, helping at receiver, cornerback and special teams, including as a returner. You can't have a group of reserve wide receivers that don't play special teams. One of these guys will make the team. We'd bet on both.
The question marks: Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney, Donte' Stallworth, Chad Ochocinco Anthony Gonzalez
There simply isn't room for more than 2-3 of the players above to make the team. We'd guess that only two would make the final cut. Gaffney is probably the safest bet because of his recent production and the fact that Tom Brady loves the guy. Branch would be next for similar reasons, although he's slowed down a step or two. He's not a lock.
Ochocinco took a pay cut to stay in New England or the team already would have released him. He never got up to speed in the Patriots' offense last season. Stallworth, on the other hand, made a big impact (46 catches for 697 yards) in his only previous stint in New England. Stallworth had a similar role in 2007 to the one New England envisioned for Ochocinco last year. Gonzalez, the former Indianapolis Colts first-round pick, is probably the biggest long shot of the group.
This is a veteran group that will be highly competitive. Perhaps there will be an injury or two in camp that will make decisions easier.
If everyone is healthy, it's hard to imagine Ochocinco surviving this battle royale.