The New England Patriots‘ 2016 training camp is underway. Players fight for practice repetitions and playing time to earn one of the 53 spots on the roster. They have until late August, when each team has to start making its roster cuts, to secure a role.
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 tight end Clay Harbor.
Name: Clay Harbor
Position: Tight end
Jersey number: 81
Size: 6’3, 240 lbs.
2015 review: Since joining the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2013, Clay Harbor has been the team’s number two tight end option behind Marcedes Lewis. However, with the team adding free agent Julius Thomas, Harbor slipped to number three on the position depth chart.
Harbor appeared in 15 games last season and played 310 of a possible 1,058 offensive snaps (29.3%) as the Jaguars’ primary "move"-tight end. As such, the 2010 fourth round draft pick caught 14 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. While the numbers are far form spectacular, Jacksonville often used Harbor as its lead blocker in the running game.
After the season, Harbor hit unrestricted free agency. New England signed him to a 2-year, $4.0 million contract.
2016 preview: The top of the Patriots’ tight end depth chart is set in stone with Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett being the top and a top-10 tight end, respectively. Therefore, Harbor – as has been the case in Jacksonville fights for a role as the team’s number three tight end as well as its lead blocker.
Consequently, the 29-year old does not only face competition from New England’s depth tight ends but also from fullbacks Joey Iosefa and particularly James Develin. With the team likely keeping three tight ends plus an H-back, Harbor either has to beat out all the tight ends not named Gronkowski and Bennett, or he has to outperform Develin and, more likely, Iosefa over the course of training camp.
The chances of Harbor doing that took a hit last week, when he was placed on the physically unable to perform list for reasons not made public. The six-year veteran was seen running through light drills yesterday and seems to be close to a return but each day on the sidelines allows his competition to pull a little away form him. However, given his versatility, role and $400,000 signing bonus, Harbor can still be considered the favorite to become the number three tight end – in parts because last year’s number three, Michael Williams, has been placed on injured reserve.
Clay Harbor has been an unspectacular free agency signing. However, his signing bonus suggests that the coaching staff indeed has specific plans for him in mind; once he comes off PUP, we might find out how the Patriots intend to use the veteran. Then, we will also see if he can fight off the tight ends and fullbacks on the roster to earn a spot on the team.