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 New England’s core special teamers.
Name: Brandon Bolden
Position: Running back / special teamer
Jersey number: 38
Opening day age: 28
Size: 5’11, 220 lbs.
2017 review: After he garnered little interest on the free agency market, the Patriots re-signed Brandon Bolden in April 2017 on a one-year, $775,000 contract. The deal included little guarantees, however, which is why New England releasing the veteran during early September’s roster cutdowns was no shocking development. The same has to be said about the team re-signing him on a slighty recuded deal two days later.
Bolden remained on the Patriots’ active roster for the rest of the year and as usual saw most of his playing time on special teams. Appearing in all 16 of New England’s regular season contests as a gunner, rusher, and front-line blocker, the former undrafted free agent played 60.1% of snaps (271 of 451). Again, he was successful in his role and helped the Patriots’ kicking game units remain one of the best in the business.
Bolden, who registered a total of eight tackles on the year, added 60 more special teams snaps during the Patriots’ postseason run (of 89; 67.4%). The playoffs were also when he scored his lone touchdown of the year: in the divisional round against the Tennessee Titans, he saw six offensive snaps when the outcome was already decided in New England’s favor. Bolden carried the football four times during those six snaps for 27 yards and a score.
In general, however, his offensive contributions were again limited. Bolden played a mere 49 of 1,360 snaps all year long (3.6%) and was mostly used late during convincing victories. He finished the season with a combined 17 rushing attempts for 94 yards and the aforementioned touchdown – most of his action coming in week 17 against the New York Jets. All in all, Bolden’s 2017 campaign therefore looked like his first four in the NFL.
2018 preview: Bolden was again scheduled to hit free agency after the 2017 season, but New England re-signed him before the market opened: In late February, the two sides agreed to a one-year, $880,000 contract that again comes with little guarantees. The 28-year old is therefore once more no lock to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster despite being a core special teams contributor.
After all, the team’s backfield is one of the most crowded in recent memory: four players – James White, Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel, James Develin – are already guaranteed to be on the team, with the other four running backs fighting for a maximum of two open spots. Bolden’s biggest advantage over his competition is his special teams prowess and experience of working in the Patriots’ offense, even if it came mainly via mob-up duty.
That’s the decision New England will have to make when it comes to trimming the roster from 90 to 53: Is a primary special teams player that could serve as an emergency running back worth a spot over potential bell-cow runners like Mike Gillislee and/or Jeremy Hill? If Bolden performs well during training camp and proves his value when compared to the other backs, the decision could very well be made in his favor. Again.