The New England Patriots have officially signed offensive lineman Kyler Kerbyson and safety Vinnie Sunseri to the roster. The team still has one open roster spot.
#Patriots sign second-year DB Vinnie Sunseri and rookie free agent OL Kyler Kerbyson: https://t.co/UcGFeor8Nk— New England Patriots (@Patriots) July 24, 2016
Kerbyson was a two-year starter and played both tackle spots, as well as left guard. He was the third-highest graded tackle in the SEC this past season, according to Pro Football Focus, behind only a first and third round draft pick. Kerbyson was not invited to the combine and was not drafted.
I’ll note that Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has had his eye on the University of Tennessee offensive line for a few seasons, dating back to the 2014 Combine when he name dropped the only starting member of the line not to receive an invite. Tennessee’s offensive line coach Don Mahoney has coached a lot of top talent in the NFL, from 1st overall pick and Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher to Eagles Pro Bowl center Jason Kelce to Dolphins 1st round pick Ja’Wuan James.
Kerbyson is probably not of the same caliber, but he’s a solid prospect that could compete for a bubble roster spot.
Sunseri is an interesting prospect that checks off all the Bill Belichick boxes. He comes out of Nick Saban’s Alabama defense (Saban served as Belichick’s defensive coordinator in Cleveland). His dad is a football coach, currently the linebackers coach in Oakland, and also served as assistant head coach at Alabama. He has suffered two torn ACLs (2013 as a senior in college, 2015 training camp with the Saints) and he broke his arm in 2014. He was a key special teams player for the Saints.
What more do you want?
It is increasingly clear that the Patriots paid close attention to the New Orleans roster in recent seasons. After signing running back Travaris Cadet and trading for defensive tackle Akiem Hicks last season, the Patriots added core special teams player and linebacker Ramon Humber in free agency and have now added Sunseri.
Sunseri will likely take some of Nate Ebner’s roles this offseason while the latter is competing in the Olympics. The Patriots worked him out in May and likely wanted to give his knee some extra time to heal.
Prior to his ACL injury in college, Sunseri was considered a 2nd or 3rd round pick, but concerns about his knee dropped him to the 5th round. He was running a 4.52 40 yard dash six months after his injury, so he has the history of making great recoveries from a serious knee injury.
I wouldn’t expect Sunseri to make the team, although he could join the practice squad. He’s cut from a similar cloth to Patrick Chung as a hybrid safety-linebacker, but with less athleticism and more tear on his body. I would place Sunseri behind Chung, Jordan Richards, and the inevitable return of Nate Ebner on the depth chart, and would put him in direct competition with 6th round pick Kamu Grugier-Hill and sophomore Brandon King.
I would expect the Patriots to fill the final open spot before veterans have to report to camp on the 27th. The team could use another bruising running back on the roster.