The New England Patriots selected Arizona State wide receiver Devin Lucien in the seventh round of the 2016 NFL Draft with the understanding that he would be a developmental prospect. Lucien battled injuries and transferred schools in college, but had one of the most dominant stretches to close out the final five games of his college career with 659 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Patriots stashed Lucien on their practice squad for his rookie season in 2016 after he gained 39 yards on 3 catches in the 2016 preseason, but an injury in the final preseason game of 2017- the same game Lucien had erupted for 96 yards and a touchdown- prevented the team from putting him on their practice squad (more on that later).
Lucien spent time on the practice squad with the Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the 2017 season, before the Buccaneers ultimately waived him in May of 2018.
And with the host of injuries at the Patriots receiver position, they decided to bring Lucien back home to New England.
“Devin works hard, like he did for us – last year he got injured at the end of preseason, so we weren’t able to keep him on the practice squad because of the injury settlement and so forth,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said after Thursday’s 26-17 win over Washington. “We were able to get him back this year and he’s come in and worked hard, given us some good plays in practice, gave us some good plays tonight. We’ll just keep going. He gained some experience in some other organizations. In the end, he’s pretty familiar with what we do but I’m sure that being at those other places were good learning experiences for him.”
The implication from Belichick’s statement is that he wanted to keep Lucien on the practice squad in 2017, but the rules didn’t let him. Lucien was injured in the final game of the preseason so the team had to use the injury/waived distinction when they moved him off the roster.
By giving Lucien an injury settlement, the Patriots paid Lucien for a mutually agreed upon period of time that was the projected period Lucien would be sidelined by the injury. The move allowed Lucien the opportunity to sign with another team- which he did. But the injury settlement rules prevented Lucien from signing with the Patriots for six weeks after the end of the injury settlement period of time.
To summarize, the Patriots had to use the injury waiver when they released Lucien and that meant there was a minimum of six weeks before Lucien would sign back with the Patriots. By that time, the Patriots would have already established their practice squad, so you can see why Lucien signed with another team.
But now Lucien is back and he recorded a team-high 71 receiving yards in the first preseason game against Washington, outshining all other Patriots receivers and it wasn’t a particularly close competition. He has an opportunity to make the roster at a wide open wide receiver position where only Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan are surefire locks to make the team.
“When you get that opportunity, you want to take advantage of it,” quarterback Brian Hoyer said after the game. “Luce [Lucien] had a few big catches in that two-minute drive and then also throughout the rest of the game. So, always good to see guys, when they have that opportunity, make the most of it.”
Lucien is a versatile enough receiver that he can compete for multiple receiver roles. He can compete with Kenny Britt and Eric Decker to be the big outside receiver or he can compete with Phillip Dorsett and Cordarrelle Patterson to be the speedy deep threat. At this point in time, he’s winning both competitions.
It’s pretty clear that Lucien picked up right where he left off at the end of the 2017 preseason. Hopefully he can stay healthy so the Patriots don’t have to make any difficult decisions and Lucien can continue to thrive in New England.