Not long after Michael Lombardi was hired by Bill Belichick as an assistant to the coaching staff in 2014, several players with ties to the Cleveland Browns organization went the same way as the former general manager and VP of player personnel.
The likes of wideouts Brian Tyms and Jonathan Krause, offensive lineman Caylin Hauptmann, defensive end Cam Henderson and linebacker Eric Martin had their stints with the New England Patriots. Later on, defensive tackle Ishmaa’ily Kitchen would have his as well.
It wasn’t exactly “Cleveland ’95” for Lombardi and Belichick. But some two decades after they last worked together as director of player personnel and head coach, respectively, they were again.
Lombardi would stay in the Patriots’ fold up through the 2015 season. And while his tenure was brief – as were the tenures of several players he had some level of familiarity with – his imprint was left on New England’s roster.
Two ex-Browns currently reside on the Patriots’ 53, following the release of defensive tackle John Hughes, and another resides on the physically unable to perform list.
The connections flow both directions to a certain extent, however, as one former Patriot checks in on Cleveland’s active roster now, following the recent exit of special-teamer Don Jones, and another stands on the club’s practice squad.
And with the 1 p.m. ET kickoff at FirstEnergy Stadium nearing this Sunday, it is worth taking a look back through the group of players set to revisit their old team.
Dion Lewis, running back – The Philadelphia Eagles sent Lewis to Cleveland in exchange for linebacker Emmanuel Acho in April of 2013, but the former Pittsburgh standout would never play in a regular-season game for the Browns. Lewis fractured his fibula in a Week 2 preseason win and landed on injured reserve. By the following August, he’d find himself released. The former fifth-round pick then spent one week on the Indianapolis Colts that September before being released again. Lewis would be out of football for the rest of 2014, before signing a reserve-futures contract with the Patriots. He amassed 622 yards and four touchdowns on 85 offensive touches through seven games in 2015, prior to suffering a torn ACL in November.
Jabaal Sheard, defensive end – While Sheard made a pre-draft visit to Foxborough in 2011, the Patriots elected to draft cornerback Ras-I Dowling at No. 33 overall instead that spring. Four picks later, he was a Brown. But after playing four seasons in Cleveland under three different head coaches, Sheard signed a two-year, $11 million contract with the organization he once thought he’d be drafted by. Since then, the 27-year-old has accrued 48 tackles, 11 sacks and four forced fumbles.
Barkevious Mingo, linebacker – The No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft faded quietly in Cleveland after recording five sacks as a rookie and starting 11 games as a second-year pro. And by August of his fourth NFL season, Mingo was traded to New England for a 2017 fifth-round draft choice. Mingo has factored primarily into the kicking game thus far into his stay, playing 84 special-teams snaps through four contests with the Patriots.
Josh Boyce, wide receiver – Arriving in New England as a fourth-rounder in 2013, Boyce played in nine games as a rookie and collected nine catches for 121 yards and nine kick returns for 214 yards along the way. But the former TCU wideout saw his 2014 season begin on the practice squad and end with him having entered for only one game. Boyce spent 2015 on New England’s injured reserve and has gone between the Colts and Browns thus far into 2016. He was signed to Cleveland’s practice squad in September.
Charley Hughlett, long snapper – Hughlett had a few cups of coffee with the Patriots in 2014, during both the offseason and twice during the regular season as a member of the practice squad. The well-traveled long snapper has since carved his spot with the Browns, however, appearing in every game for the club since the beginning of 2015.