It Appears the Patriots Could Be Keeping Demaryius Thomas Thanks to Injured Reserve Protocol

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 12:  Demaryius Thomas #88 of the Denver Broncos carries the ball against Patrick Chung #23 of the New England Patriots at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on November 12, 2017 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
New England Patriots v Denver Bronco | Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The deadline for NFL teams to cut their rosters to 53 was harsh to a number of players on Saturday. Hundreds are now without jobs, as they hope another team gives them a chance to stick around.

Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is no exception, as the New England Patriots released him prior to Saturday's 4 p.m. deadline. However, it's looking like it won't last for long, as reports suggest the receiver is likely headed back to New England in the coming days.

The NFL roster crunch is a complicated game of numbers. With injured reserve, if a player is placed on IR prior to the 53-man deadline, then he cannot return at any point during the season. If the IR designation comes after the cutdown deadline, that player can return during the season if the team chooses to activate him. This gives a team some flexibility with that injured player's future.

It's likely the Patriots want to place a player on the IR with the option to activate him at some point during the season. When this happens, a roster spot will open for the team to bring back Thomas. Since the receiver is a veteran, he's not subject to the waiver system like other young players. Thomas is free to sign wherever.

It's a complicated, but smart move by the Patriots. Thomas impressed in the team's final preseason game, catching seven passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns. The team could use his veteran presence to pair with Julian Edelman and as a contingency plan for Josh Gordon.

There are a number of roster moves still to come in the next few days, but Thomas' return to the Patriots is all but confirmed.