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 corps.
Name: Damarius Travis
Position: Strong safety
Jersey number: 39
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6’2, 215 lbs.
2017 review: After going unselected during the 2017 draft, Damarius Travis signed a three-year free agent deal with the Patriots. Competing for one of the backup spots behind the top safety trio of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Duron Harmon, he saw plenty of action over the course of the summer: Travis appeared in all four preseason games, playing 60.8% of defensive snaps (161 of 265).
The rookie was not only among the preseason leaders in playing time, he also was one of New England’s most productive defenders. Playing primarily as a strong safety, Travis was tied for the team-lead with 19 tackles and also registered a quarterback hit as well as a forced fumble and recovery. Despite his preseason success, however, he failed to earn a roster spot.
The Patriots decided to start the season with more experienced special teams options Nate Ebner and Jordan Richards as the emergency safeties and therefore released Travis during cutdowns. He was quickly brought back via the practice squad, though, and spent his entire first NFL season there. Along the way, Travis earned practice player of the week honors six times.
2018 preview: After the Super Bowl, New England signed Travis to a one-year futures contract that will give him another chance to make the Patriots’ roster — just like last year. And just like last year, it would not be unexpected if the Minnesota product came up short and ultimately ended up on the practice squad for a second straight season.
After all, the team’s safety group remains unchanged when compared to last year’s and unless Travis becomes more consistent as a defender and carves out a role on special teams, chances are he becomes one of the odd men out once more. If, however, he can improve in both areas, he could challenge depth safety Jordan Richards for a backup and kicking game role.
Ultimately, however, the deck again seems stacked against Travis. Seeing him released in September and end up on the practice squad therefore appears to be the most realistic scenario — one that would give the defensive back a chance to gain more experience on defense and special teams and potentially take over Richards’ role in case he leaves via free agency next year. But, who knows, maybe 2018 already is when this potential transition takes place.