The New England Patriots know the importance of depth: the team currently has 11 players listed on its injury report, while 12 more are currently on an injury-related reserve list. Save to say that having players available to step up when needed is one of the most important parts of building an NFL roster. It is therefore no surprise to see the Patriots work out free agents every now and then to update their files and have them as potential emergency call-ups.
Recently, New England brought in four players (via ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss):
DE Tank Carradine
A second-round draft pick by the San Francisco 49ers, Cornelllius “Tank” Carradine appeared in 45 games over the course of his five-year career. Playing as a rotational edge defender and part-time special teamer, the Florida State product registered a combined 5.5 sacks and 77 tackles since 2013. This offseason, and coming off a season in which he missed nine games due to an ankle injury, Carradine left San Francisco to sign with the Oakland Raiders. However, he was let go by the team at his own request two weeks ago.
DB A.J. Howard
Despite being a three year starter at Appalachian State, strong safety A.J. Howard did not hear his name called during this year’s draft. Instead, he joined the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted rookie. However, the part-time defender, part-time special teamer failed to crack the team’s 53-man roster and instead was let go during roster cuts. Howard could be an intriguing developmental option due to his versatility and experience when going one-on-one against tight ends.
LB Corey Nelson
Corey Nelson entered the league as a seventh round draft pick by the Denver Broncos in 2014. Primarily used in the kicking game, the Oklahoma product appeared in 57 games for the team. After spending most of 2017 on injured reserve due to a torn biceps, Nelson left Denver to join the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent. However, he failed to make the team and was instead picked up by the Atlanta Falcons. After appearing in one game for Atlanta, Nelson was let go again.
LB Tegray Scales
Another undrafted rookie, Tegray Scales joined the Los Angeles Rams as a free agent this offseason. Like the aforementioned Howard, however, he failed to crack the team’s roster and instead was released during cutdowns. The 6’0, 230 lbs linebacker, who was named All-Big Ten during his 2017 senior season at Illinois, may lack the desired size to work on an every down basis, but he comes with solid instincts and could develop into a special teams presence if given the time.
While New England’s linebackers looked very solid in stretches over the last three weeks, the team could benefit from having more depth available behind its top three (Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts). Ever since impressive rookie Ja’Whaun Bentley was placed on injured reserve after week three, the team has lacked a realistic fourth option. That being said, none of the four players above should be expected to immediately become just that.