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 best NFL players at his position.
Name: James Develin
Jersey number: 46
Opening day age: 30
Size: 6’3, 255 lbs.
2017 review: After receiving a two-year, $2.45 million contract shortly before he was about to hit unrestricted free agency, James Develin returned to the Patriots and once again proved his value to the team: he remained a reliable cog in the team’s offensive machinery and once more saw regular playing time as a fullback/tight end-hybrid – a role that earned him his first Pro Bowl recognition.
For the second year in a row, Develin appeared in every one of the Patriots’ games as he was active for all 16 regular season games and the team’s three postseason contests. Offensively, the veteran played 344 of a possible 1,139 snaps (30.2%) during the regular season before adding 63 more during the playoffs (of 221; 28.5%). On special teams, he played 168 regular season (of 451; 37.3%) and 45 postseason snaps (of 89; 50.6%).
On offense, Develin again saw most of his playing time as a blocker out of the backfield. As such, he helped New England rush for 1,889 yards and 16 touchdowns during the regular season; tenth and sixth best in the NFL respectively. He was also occasionally moved around the formation – from tight end to outside receiver – and served as a target in the passing game. Overall, he finished the regular season with six receptions for 38 yards.
On special teams, Develin’s role again looked like it did in previous seasons. The former practice squad player served as an interior gunner on the Patriots’ punt and kickoff coverage units and was also used as a wedge blocker in the kickreturn game. In that role he a) helped Dion Lewis score the Patriots’ only kickoff return touchdown of the season, a 103-yarder in week 10 against the Denver Broncos, and b) registered one tackle.
The playoffs were more of the same for the versatile veteran. As a traditional fullback, rotational tight end, and member of New England’s jumbo and special teams packages, Develin saw regular playing time. And even though he did not show up on the stat sheet even once, he again proved himself an important member of the Patriots’ backfield, tight end corps and kicking game groups.
2018 preview: After the Patriots’ offseason workouts, Develin received a new contract extension that will prevent him from hitting the open market next March. Instead, the veteran is scheduled to remain in New England until at least the 2020 season: two additional years worth up to $3.8 million in new money – $600,000 of which guaranteed – were added to his current deal; one that hits the team’s salary cap with $1.48 million this year.
Naturally, his team-friendly contract and status as one of the NFL’s best fullbacks make him a lock to be on New England’s 53-man roster this upcoming season. And as such, he will once again play his usual role: Develin will be the team’s lead blocker out of the backfield as well as a depth option at the tight end position. Furthermore, the soon-to-be 30-year old is also projected to see regular playing time in the kicking game.
And while Develin will never stand out on the stat sheet, as evidenced by his 34 total career touches, he will continue to play the role the coaching staff asks him to play at a high level. He therefore embodies the Patriots’ “Do Your Job”-mentality and will continue doing just that in 2018. It might again lead to him being named to the Pro Bowl – and maybe even to a third Super Bowl ring.