Shortly after the conclusion of each season, NFL teams often sign players to "future contracts" for the upcoming season. Often, these players are first year guys or players that were on the team's practice squad. Today, the Patriots have announced the signing of seven players to future contracts. These players were:
OL Matt Kopa
DE/LB Markell Carter
DE/LB Aaron Lavarias
DB Ross Ventrone
WR Tiquan Underwood
LB Mike Rivera
WR Britt Davis
The big names here are obviously Underwood, Ventrone, and Carter. Underwood and Ventrone will get a chance to compete for a spot on the 53 man roster - it's tough to say if they will secure those spots but they do look like slightly longer shots at this point.
As for Carter - I'm feeling optimistic about him. The second year player was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and has really bulked up since, while winning numerous "practice player of the week" honors. He could compete for a role on the team at either outside linebacker or defensive end. While he still is likely a bit raw in his technique, a full offseason could really help him capitalize on his potential. In terms of outside linebackers, I also think that Aaron Lavarias could have some potential, based on what I saw from him moving in space during training camp.
Tight ends Carson Butler and Dorin Dickerson were the lone players from the practice squad not signed to future contracts (Dickerson ended the year on practice squad injured reserve).