The New England Patriots had the inside scoop on Johnson Bademosi as former Patriots executive Mike Lombardi signed the Stanford defensive back to the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2012. For the next four seasons, Bademosi led the Browns in special teams tackles as one of the best special teams players in the NFL.
I found this article on Bademosi as a rookie with the Browns in 2012 and so much of what the defensive back talked about back then still applies.
"He is by far the hardest-working rookie I have ever been around," Browns cornerback Sheldon Brown said about Bademosi in 2012. "He is always taking notes, never falling asleep in meetings, always in the weight room even when he doesn't have to be in there. That speaks volumes to how he must have been raised."
Bademosi then signed a 2-year deal with the Detroit Lions and former Patriots exec Bob Quinn in 2016 to become the highest-paid special teamer in the NFL. For Bademosi’s first five years in the NFL, the Patriots had eyes on him.
“We had looked at him [Bademosi] in free agency two years ago, and he signed with Detroit. Bob [Quinn] signed him,” head coach Bill Belichick said on Monday morning. “Bob liked him here. We went through the whole free agency process there in the season, and Bademosi was probably one of our top-ranked guys for the roles that we projected him in. Then Bob went to Detroit and he ended up signing him there. I’d say that wasn’t really a surprise to us because we knew that he liked the player. I mean, we all liked him. That’s the way things worked out.
“After we went up to Detroit and talked to Bob, they had some young players, had quite a bit of depth at that position, so we were able to work things out there. So, basically that’s it.”
So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the Patriots acquired Bademosi at the start of the 2017 season, especially with Nate Ebner and Matthew Slater dealing with injuries. Bademosi and Ebner are two of the best special teamers in the league and both have a history of playing rugby, with Bademosi competing with the U.S. Junior National teams.
Bademosi made an immediate impact on the Patriots special teams unit and apparently made such an impression on the coaching staff that they gave him the chance to start on defense over the past two games against the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons.
"I've been blessed with opportunities in my life, opportunities some kids in my neighborhood never had," Bademosi said as a rookie. "It would be wrong of me not to take advantage of them. A lot of people helped me get this far."
"I always feel like I have something to prove, and if you don't have something to prove maybe your time is up," Bademosi added. "I am passionate about the game. I want to beat the man in front of me, and I want to win the battle."
Bademosi signed a 2-year, $4.5 million deal with the Lions with incentvies that could boost his contract up to $6.0 million if he played on defense. He would have earned $100,000 for playing 30% of the defensive snaps in his first year with the Lions, and he has a $200,000 incentive for playing 35% of the snaps and another $200,000 for playing 50% of the snaps. He has $300,000 in annual Pro Bowl incentives and a $400,000 incentive if he records 4 interceptions.
Bademosi has played 17.6% of the Patriots defensive snaps so he’s still far away from hitting any of those incentives, but his performance over the past two weeks certainly inspires confidence in his ability on defense. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bademosi’s role continue to grow on defense after the bye week.
While it’s unclear if Bademosi needed to hit those marks in his first year with the Lions for the playing time incentives to take place in 2017, the Lions definitely left the door open for Bademosi to contribute on defense.
It just took a trade to the Patriots for Bademosi to walk through.