There may never be another James Develin or Dion Lewis among the New England Patriots’ reserve-futures signings. That’s because not many Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz defensive ends become Pro Bowl fullbacks, and not many halfbacks go 731 days between regular-season appearances.
For each of those Develin and Lewis stories, there are countless more that go like Rob Housler’s, Marcus Benard’s and Rufus Johnson’s.
Housler was waived with the failed-physical designation by May 2017. Benard was released by September 2013. And Johnson earned a 53-man roster spot and played in one regular-season game before landing on the non-football illness list in 2015, then was let go from the practice squad after three days in 2016.
Those are just a few trajectories of the overarching point: It’s tough for a reserve-futures signing to be in the right place at the right time.
In the months leading up to unrestricted free agency and the NFL draft, street free agents, Canadian Football Leaguers and practice-squad alums can only try to be. Yet the “future” part of their deals does little to suggest they will be part of an organization’s. There are Develin and Lewis-like outliers and there are others who earn and re-earn their stripes on the 10-man scout team. But most go on to depart as quietly as they arrived.
That’s held true in New England, where, since January 2013, just 15 players who signed reserve-futures contracts either previously or eventually logged regular-season snaps for the Patriots.
Thirty others over that span either did not or have not.
Here’s the list of those yes’s and no’s as the sights turn to 2018.
Yes: OL Chris Barker (2013, 2014, 2015), DT Woodrow Hamilton (2016)
No: RB Tyler Gaffney, FB Glenn Gronkowski, WR Devin Lucien, TE Rob Housler, OL Jamil Douglas, OL Chase Farris, DT Darius Kilgo (inactive), LB Trevor Bates
- Barker was thrice a Patriots reserve-futures signing, and spent this past season on the Cleveland Browns’ injured reserve. Hamilton, meanwhile, was promoted to the New Orleans Saints’ active roster for the playoff run and recorded three tackles in the divisional round. And with regards to Kilgo, the Patriots claimed the defensive tackle off waivers from the Denver Broncos but he never saw the field back in 2016.
Yes: RB Joey Iosefa (2015), OL Chris Barker (2013, 2014, 2015), DT Joe Vellano (2013, 2014), CB Rashaan Melvin (2015)
No: WR DeAndre Carter, OL Keavon Milton, LB James Vaughters, S Cedric Thompson, S Brock Vereen
- Vaughters, the lone out-of-house futures signing from 2016, was waived by New England following that spring’s draft and has since had stints with the Calgary Stampeders and San Diego Chargers. Another name gone by is Melvin, who started all 10 games he played in for the Indianapolis Colts in 2017 and intercepted three passes while defending a total of 13.
Yes: RB Dion Lewis (2015, 2016, 2017), OL Chris Barker (2013, 2014, 2015), DE Jake Bequette (2012, 2013), DE Rufus Johnson (2015), LB Eric Martin (2015), LB Deontae Skinner (2014), CB Justin Green (2013)
No: QB Garrett Gilbert, WR Jonathan Krause, OL Caylin Hauptmann, DT Antonio Johnson, CB Daxton Swanson
- Four futures signings from 2015 proceeded to play in games for the Patriots that fall in Lewis, Barker, Rufus Johnson and Martin. Lewis has accumulated 2,109 yards of offense to go with 14 regular-season touchdowns since then.
Yes: OL Jordan Devey (2014), DT Marcus Forston (2012, 2013)
No: RB Sam McGuffie, WR Greg Orton, WR Reggie Dunn, OL R.J. Mattes, OL Braxton Cave, LB Taylor Reed
- Devey played in seven games for the Patriots in 2014, starting four and earning a Super Bowl XLIX ring, before being traded to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for tight end Asante Cleveland the following summer. Forston, who made New England’s lineup in both 2012 and 2013, has transitioned to law enforcement. And McGuffie, a late practice-squad add in 2013, proceeded to make the 2018 U.S. Olympic Men’s bobsledding team for 2018.
Yes: LB Jeff Tarpinian (2011, 2012), FB James Develin (2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017)
No: QB Mike Kafka, WR Jeremy Ebert, WR Andre Holmes, DT Tracy Robertson, DT Armond Armstead, DE Jason Vega, DE Marcus Benard
- Develin’s journey has taken him from Brown University to the af2, from the United Football League to the Cincinnati Bengals’ practice squad, and from the Patriots’ practice squad to the active roster, where he was elevated to play in his first game late in the 2012 season. New England’s 2013 futures class also featured two CFL products in Vega as well as Armstead, who retired 18 months after signing with New England in wake of heart scares and a post-surgery infection that sent him to the non-football injury list during his short tenure.
As for 2018, only time will tell where that .272 batting average will stand by the end of it.
This past week, the Patriots reached deals with nine of 10 players who finished the most recent campaign on the practice squad: wideouts Cody Hollister and Riley McCarron, tight end Will Tye, offensive linemen James Ferentz and Jason King, cornerbacks Jomal Wiltz and Ryan Lewis, along with as safeties Damarius Travis and David Jones.
Seven of whom have yet to make their NFL debuts after entering the league as undrafted rookies last spring. And one of those seven, King, resided on New England’s active roster from Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 before hitting the waiver wire on the eve of a matchup with the Buffalo Bills.
As for the elder statesmen of the group, Tye and Ferentz check in with a combined 53 games, 18 starts and one Super Bowl ring on their respective resumes elsewhere around the league.
The practice-squad contract of linebacker Trevor Reilly, who recorded 10 tackles for New England in 2017, expired this week after the 29-year-old was previously announced as part of the futures class. Reilly would have made it 16 of the last 56.