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Patriots TE Clay Harbor Receives Big Signing Bonus and Might Be a Roster Lock

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It seems that Bill Belichick was playing chess with the tight end position while I was busy learning how to color inside the lines.

The Patriots picked up a contract option for Rob Gronkowski (expected) and then acquired Martellus Bennett from the Bears (possibly the biggest move of the Patriots offseason). The signing of former Jaguars tight end Clay Harbor flew under the radar, but perhaps it deserves more attention.

Harbor received a whopping $400,000 signing bonus, per the Globe's Ben Volin, which pretty much guarantees him a roster spot this season. Volin also notes that the contract is a two-year deal, with the second season an option year.

That $400,000 bonus pretty much makes Harbor a lock to make the team. The only players to receive that type of cash from the Patriots and not make the final roster are aging veterans that forced themselves off the team like wide receiver Reggie Wayne (asked to be released), defensive tackle Tommy Kelly (also asked to be released), or offensive lineman Robert Gallery (retired).

While Harbor doesn't have a 300-yard receiving season under his belt, he's in a direct competition with James Develin for the lead blocker role and adds some additional versatility to the offense that Bill Belichick adores.

"I'd say that [Clay] Harbor is...a fullback, tight end kind of guy," Belichick said before the 2015 regular season game against the Jaguars. "[He] sort of lines up in a lot of different places. They use him in motion, change formations with him quite a bit...Harbor is a good receiver."

Harbor should join Gronkowski and Bennett on the field for run-heavy downs, and his value will be evident in the Patriots goal line packages that require as many tight ends as possible.

The ability to flex Harbor around the formation, as a blocker out of the backfield, or as an inline blocking tight end, or in the slot as a receiver, is exactly what Belichick wants in a jackknife flex player.

"[Using Harbor in motion] puts pressure on the defense to recognize where everybody's at and adjust to it," Belichick said.

So think about a goal line package with Gronkowski, Bennett, Harbor, Julian Edelman, and Dion Lewis. Heck, think about that lineup in the open field. They could go five wide against a linebacker-heavy defense. They could come in tight and run power if the defense counters with more cornerbacks.

It's time to start thinking about Harbor as a viable chess piece in this offense.