Justin Bethel’s initial stop in free agency would be Foxborough. And it’d end in a contract.
According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, the New England Patriots are signing the veteran defensive back.
Bethel, whose visit was first reported by Field Yates of ESPN, had been let go by the Baltimore Ravens the day prior in a move that preserved a projected fourth-round compensatory pick in 2020.
“Justin Bethel unfortunately had to be released because of a funky rule that the NFL has with these compensatory picks,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said in his press conference Monday. “A judgement has to be made for the future, as well.”
Bethel has been named to three Pro Bowls while earning two first-team All-Pro honors for his work on special teams. Originally a sixth-round selection by the Arizona Cardinals in 2012, the Presbyterian product spent last season with the Atlanta Falcons and signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the Ravens in March.
Bethel recorded six tackles over seven appearances with Baltimore this fall. The 29-year-old cornerback and safety played a team-high 80 percent of the snaps in the kicking game over that span.
“I told him I think he’s the best special-teams player in the NFL,” said Harbaugh, “and he’s playing that way. It’s going to be a blow, and we’re going to have to find a way to overcome that.”
The Patriots also worked out former Boston College offensive tackle Aaron Monteiro and former West Georgia wide receiver Malik Henry to begin the week, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss.
An opening remains on New England’s practice squad. But the active roster stood above capacity following Tuesday’s trade for wide receiver Mohamed Sanu along with the Bethel signing.
Neither move would make the 4 p.m. ET transaction wire. The Patriots have since released safety Jordan Richards in a corresponding move, however, according to Yates.
Richards had seen 59 snaps on special teams over three contests, registering a pair of tackles. The Stanford Cardinal returned this October to the organization that drafted him No. 64 overall back in 2015.