Prior to the start of the 2016 NFL season, the New England Patriots acquired CB Eric Rowe from the Philadephia Eagles in exchange for a 2018 fourth round pick. That pick would increase to a 2018 third round pick if Rowe played 50% or more snaps in either 2016 or 2017.
Rowe played 43.3% of the Patriots defensive snaps in 2016, so the Patriots still have a chance to send a mere fourth round pick to the Eagles in 2018. The fact that the Patriots signed CB Stephon Gilmore and retained CB Malcolm Butler increases the odds of Rowe coming in under the snap requirement.
Gilmore and Butler project to be the top cornerbacks in 2017 and there’s less of a chance of either losing their job for a couple weeks like Logan Ryan did for half the season in 2016. Additionally, FS Duron Harmon projects to play roughly 45-50% of the snaps in 2017 under his new contract (matching his time in 2016), which leaves a limited amount of snaps for Rowe.
Cornerbacks accounted for 24.4% of the Patriots defensive snaps in 2016, which means that if the two starters play 100% of the time, the nickel is expected to play roughly 67% of the snaps. If Rowe plays this full amount, then he will reach his snap requirement and the Patriots will send a 2018 third round pick to Philadelphia.
But the nickel isn’t always going to be the same player as the Patriots will switch cornerbacks based upon opposing receivers; the Patriots likely wouldn’t play Gilmore, Butler, and Rowe against the Miami Dolphins with two shorter receivers in Jarvis Landry and Kenny Stills.
So if every Patriots defender remains healthy, 67% of the snaps should be the absolute ceiling for Rowe- but reality points to a smaller load, and an increased chance for the Patriots to only send a 2018 fourth round pick to the Eagles.
And if Butler leaves in 2018, then Rowe could very well ascend into the starting role in the final year of his contract.