The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with one of the Patriots’ young cornerbacks.
Name: Jomal Wiltz
Jersey number: 22
Opening day age: 23
Size: 5’10, 180 lbs.
2017 review: A two-year starter at Iowa, Jomal Wiltz went undrafted in 2017 and joined the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent shortly afterwards. But while he saw plenty of action over the course of preseason – Wiltz played 37.7% of the Eagles’ defensive snaps (115 of 305) and registered four tackles and a forced fumble – he was unable to make the team: Philadelphia released him during roster cutdowns.
After clearing waivers, Wiltz did not re-join the Eagles but instead was signed to the Patriots’ practice squad five days later. With the exception of four days in late September, the Iowa product spent his entire rookie season on New England’s scout team. He was recognized as one of the team’s practice players on three different occasions but never actually promoted to the active 53-man roster.
2018 preview: Shortly after the Super Bowl, Wiltz signed a one-year futures contract with the Patriots that will pay him a non-guaranteed $480,000 this season. He has to make the team’s roster first, however, which is not a given considering how deep New England’s cornerback depth chart currently is: While only two players – Stephon Gilmore and Duke Dawson – can be considered locks, there is plenty of competition for the remaining spots.
In order for Wiltz to survive the competition, he needs to establish himself as the Patriots’ number five or six cornerback: The second-year man has to be competitive in one-on-one and team drills during training camp practices and make the most of his snaps during the preseason. Beyond all that, he also needs to prove his value in the kicking game (Wiltz already saw snaps as a kickoff returner during offseason workouts).
Ultimately, though, the 23-year old faces an uphill battle and it would not be a surprise to see him end up as one of the odd men out. His best chance of sticking around on New England’s payroll, therefore, appears to be via the practice squad once more.