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 a member of the Patriots’ safety group.
Name: David Jones
Position: Free safety
Jersey number: 26
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6’3, 210 lbs.
2017 review: Richmond safety and punt returner David Jones went unselected in the draft and was subsequently signed to the Patriots’ roster as a free agent. Coming off a year which he ended on the sidelines due to a broken forearm, the rookie started his NFL career slowly and began his first training camp doing mostly conditioning work. However, Jones saw considerable preseason action from week two onwards.
Despite missing contest number one, the defensive back played 43.8% of New England’s defensive preseason snaps (116 of 265) as well as seven snaps on special teams. He also finished the preseason tied for sixth on the team with 10 tackles. Despite his productivity and the extensive playing time he saw, however, the rookie failed to make the Patriots’ roster and was released during cut-downs.
It did not take long for him to re-join the team, though: New England signed Jones to its practice squad after he cleared waivers and he would go on to spend his entire rookie campaign on the 10-man squad. And while he was never promoted to the active roster, Jones still made positive contributions during practice and was named as a practice player of the week a team-high six times.
2018 preview: After the Super Bowl, the Patriots re-signed Jones to a one-year futures contract that will pay him a non-guaranteed $480,000 this season and give him a chance to compete for one of the defensive back spots on New England’s roster. The team’s tallest defensive back at 6’3 could serve as a free safety, a strong safety/linebacker hybrid, and also help out on special teams as a gunner and returnman.
What also helps Jones to possibly carve out a role on the team is his experience in the Patriots’ system after spending all of 2017 on the practice squad. This all makes him a competitor for one of the backup spots behind the de-facto starting safety trio of Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung. As such, he might be able to challenge incumbent top backup Jordan Richards for a spot on the team.
In order to do that, however, he needs to be back at full strength once training camp opens after missing all offseason practices open to the media for undisclosed reasons. Jones, who might be a candidate to start training camp and maybe even the regular season on the physically unable to perform list, can ill afford to lose any more practice reps if he wants to have a realistic shot at making the team.
But even if he is back on the field in late July, he only has an outside chance of making the 53-man team. The practice squad might therefore again be the best destination for the Richmond product. Jones could serve as a depth and emergency option at safety and punt returner, continue learning behind the scenes, and potentially push for a backup spot in 2019 when Richards hits unrestriced free agency.