With training camp starting next week, the NFL's most quiet period is set to come to an end soon. For the New England Patriots, rookies will report on July 24 and veterans two days later – and on July 27, the defending world champions will hold their first practice of this year's camp.
Over the next month, players have a chance to earn a spot either on the team's 53-man roster or the practice squad. Throughout the offseason, we will take a look at the men fighting for those few select spots on the 2017 Patriots to find out who will and might be asked to help the team defend its Super Bowl title.
Today, we will continue the series with one of the Patriots' backup defensive tackles.
Name: Woodrow Hamilton
Position: Defensive tackle
Jersey number: 74b
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6’3, 315 lbs.
2016 review: After going unselected in the 2016 NFL draft, the Patriots picked defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton up as a free agency. And even though he started his tenure in New England on a bad note – Hamilton was thrown out of a minicamp practice for fighting center Bryan Stork –, the rookie settled down and established himself as the team's fourth option at defensive tackle over the summer.
However, despite a solid training camp and a combined 69 preseason snaps (plus six tackles), New England released Hamilton during final roster cutdowns. He was not out of work long, though, as the team signed him to its practice squad the very next day. Hamilton spent the first four games of the season on the scout team before being promoted to the active roster prior to week five.
With fellow rookie Vincent Valentine out with a back injury, Hamilton appeared in the Patriots' games against the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals and played a combined 42 snaps (of 131; 32.1%), a majority coming against the run. The Mississippi product, who also played five snaps on special teams, registered three tackles in the process. After Valentine's return, Hamilton remained on the Patriots' roster but did not see any more playing time.
Finally, in late December, the team opted to release the rookie. He was, however, re-signed to the practice squad immediately after clearing waivers. Hamilton – who earned two practice player of the week honors in 2016 – spent the rest of the regular season and playoffs on the practice squad and was signed to a one-year futures contract shortly after the Super Bowl.
2017 preview: Despite showing some promise last season and being a candidate to make a jump over the course of his second offseason, Woodrow Hamilton is far from a roster lock. Especially after the Patriots added unrestricted free agent Lawrence Guy, whose four-year, $13.4 million contract makes him a lock to join fellow safe bets Alan Branch, Malcom Brown and Vincent Valentine on the roster.
The signing has a trickle-down effect on the other defensive tackles on the roster; Hamilton being one of them. With the Patriots unlikely to carry more than four players at the position, Hamilton therefore joins Darius Kilgo, Adam Butler and Josh Augusta in what seems to be a four-man battle for one of New England's limited practice squad spots.
Given his relatively low ceiling, it would not be too big of a surprise to see Hamilton overtaken on the depth chart by a raw athlete like Augusta, who also is a quasi-non-factor against the pass. As things stand right now, however, the 24-year old still can be considered the favorite to win the battle for a spot on the Patriots' pay roll mostly due to his experience and proven consistency.