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 New England’s long snapper.
Name: Joe Cardona
Position: Long snapper
Jersey number: 49
Opening day age: 26
Size: 6’3, 245 lbs.
2017 review: Even more so than the other two kicking game positions – place kicker and punter – long snapper is a straight-forward spot to play: you will get little recognition when you do your job as well as is expected of you, but you will quickly get thrown into the spotlight when there are any miscues or bad snaps. Patriots long snapper Joe Cardona experienced both in 2017.
After spending his offseason again juggling his service duty with the Navy and his role on New England’s roster, Cardona played yet another mostly solid season. He appeared in all 16 regular season games as well as the Patriots’ three playoff contests and finished with playing time percentages of 32.6% (147 of 451) and 31.5% (28 of 89), respectively. The former fifth-round draft pick snapped the football on each one of his snaps.
Like he has been during the first two years of his NFL career, Cardona was an accurate long snapper. Of his 175 snaps, only a handful were slightly off target. As a result, kicker Stephen Gostkowski and punter/holder Ryan Allen had enough time to properly go through their motions and did not see any of their kicks blocked or obstructed in a play-altering way – at least up to the final game of the season.
During the second quarter of Super Bowl 52, Cardona fired his first really bad snap of the year on a field goal attempt: the ball was placed too far to the outside for Allen to properly pin it down. The timing of the kick was thrown off as a result, and it ultimately bounced off the upright, keeping the score at 9-3 instead of a possible 9-6. This one bad snap, however, should not overshadow what has been another solid season for Cardona.
2018 preview: Even though Cardona, like the entire New England organization, ended 2017 on a low note, the team awarded him with a contract extension last month: the Patriots and their long snapper agreed to a four-year deal worth $4.31 million. In 2018, Cardona still hits the team’s salary cap with his rookie number of $730,000 – the 50th highest on the roster and 17th most among long snappers league-wide.
Naturally, his combination of modest financial impact and lack of competition makes Cardona a lock to be on the Patriots’ roster this season. And as usual, he should be a reliable part of New England’s kicking game operation. The main question entering 2018 is therefore not his general performance but whether or not his botched Super Bowl snap will mentally impact his game similarly to how a missed extra point during the 2015 AFC title game appeared to haunt Stephen Gostkowski in 2016.
Given his contract extension, the Patriots’ front office apparently is not concerned about anything like that happening. Consequently, Cardona should be expected to return as the player he was for the most parts through his first three years in the NFL.