In not even one week, the New England Patriots will return to the practice fields for the start of their 2016 training camp. The battles for spots on the team will then officially enter the next round as by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts.
Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will. Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we’ll continue the series with defensive tackle Joe Vellano.
Name: Joe Vellano
Position: Defensive tackle
Jersey number: 70
Size: 6’2, 300 lbs.
2015 review: Joe Vellano was promoted from the Patriots’ practice squad to their active roster prior to the 2014 AFC Championship Game. He stayed there for the next seven months until his release during the first wave of 2015 roster cuts. Vellano went unsigned for nearly a month until New England re-signed him to their practice squad. A mere four days later, he was waived again.
It took until late December, until the Indianapolis Colts signed the Maryland product to their practice squad, for Vellano to find a new home. The team did not offer him a contract after its season ended, however, and the defensive tackle would remain unsigned until the Patriots re-signed him once again on January 26.
2016 preview: The reserve/futures deal Vellano signed that day is worth $600,000, making him one of the cheapest defensive tackles on New England’s current roster. However, it is also reflective of his standing on the depth chart: the 27-year old is near the bottom of it – and, given the defensive tackles ahead of him, a long shot to make the Patriots’ roster.
Vellano’s best shot of staying in Foxboro is making the team’s practice squad. To do that, he has to beat out Anthony Johnson and Woodrow Hamilton, the only other realistic candidates for one of the 10 spots, over the next few weeks. While his ceiling is probably the lowest of all three, his experience – he played in 24 NFL games in his career – might give him a slight edge.
Joe Vellano, at best, is an emergency option for the Patriots: his abilities are limited but he brings more experience within the team’s system to the table than all but one other defensive tackle (Alan Branch). Consequently, while it does not seem that he has a shot at making the 53-man roster, the practice squad might be an option – given that the veteran beats out his younger competition in training camp.