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New England Patriots 2019 roster breakdown: #38 RB Brandon Bolden

After a one-year absence, Bolden is back in New England.

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The New England Patriots, who will be off until training camp starts later this month, currently have 89 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on August 31 and ultimately make the team. Over the course of the summer, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots defend their Super Bowl title.

Today, the series continues with one of New England’s offseason additions.

Name: Brandon Bolden

Position: Running back/Special teamer

Jersey number: 38

Opening day age: 29

Experience: 7

Size: 5’11, 220 lbs.

2018 review: Three weeks before the start of 2018’s free agency period, the Patriots and Brandon Bolden agreed to a one-year contract extension worth $880,000 with little guarantees — a deal showing that the veteran’s role on the team was not etched in stone. During final roster cutdowns, New England ultimately opted to release Bolden. Unlike in 2017, when he was also let go, he would not return to the club shortly afterwards.

On September 4, three days after his release from the Patriots, the Miami Dolphins and Bolden agreed to a one-year free agency contract. The decision to join New England’s division rivals proved to be a good one for the former undrafted free agent: the club used him as a core special teamer and also a rotational depth option at the running back position; the Patriots had the same role for him between 2012 and 2017.

As such, Bolden appeared in all sixteen of Miami’s games. On special teams, he was on the field for 295 of a possible 448 snaps (65.9%) as a gunner, rusher and front-line blocker — the fourth biggest playing time share among the Dolphins’ kicking game players. Not only was Bolden active in seeing the field, he also made plays for his new team: he finished the season with 6 tackles and also blocked a punt in week ten against the Green Bay Packers.

Bolden did not contribute on offense as frequently, but still made a positive impact despite playing just 25 combined snaps on the year (of 920; 2.7%). All in all, he carried the football 8 times for 91 yards and 2 touchdowns and also registered 3 receptions for 13 yards and a score. His most noteworthy and statistically impressive game coincidentally came against his former team, when the Patriots visited Miami in week fourteen.

While the ‘Miami Miracle’ was the story of the game, Bolden’s contributions cannot be forgotten either. Even though he played a mere four snaps on offense, he touched the football three times — two rushes and a reception not gaining any yards — worth a combined 60 yards. Bolden also scored a pair of touchdowns and added two tackles on special teams for the lone multiple-tackle game of his season.

All in all, the veteran had another typical season despite playing in a new environment. And as a result, he remained on New England’s radar after the year.

2019 preview: Bolden’s one-year contract with the Dolphins expired after the 2018 season, but the team did not bring him back into the fold. Instead, the Patriots scooped Bolden up on a two-year, $3.7 million free agency contract. The deal is noteworthy not just because of his length and total value, but also because it includes $2.0 million in guarantees: the entire $1.0 million base salary this season is guarantees, as is a $1.0 million signing bonus.

Given this structure, Bolden can be considered a near-lock to make the roster. The Patriots would still save some money in case of a release, yes, but it seems likely that the 29-year-old will have a role on the team in 2019 — one that is expected to resemble the one he had in Miami and during his first stint in New England: Bolden will be a four-unit special teams contributor and a depth/emergency option at running back.

In this role, he will see most of his action in the kicking game and be on the field for around 60-70% of the Patriots’ special teams snaps. Offensively, meanwhile, Bolden will be behind roster locks James White and Rex Burkhead as the third receiving back option. Ideally, he will see only irregular action but as he has shown in the past he can still be counted on to produce at a serviceable level in such a limited role.