Heading towards the 2019 season, the New England Patriots field one of the strongest offensive lines in the NFL. But while the top-level talent and the depth along the interior are outstanding, the offensive tackle position has been a question mark when it comes to the backup players: the Patriots have yet to find a proper replace for free agency departure LaAdrian Waddle to play the depth/swing tackle role.
New England drafted Yodny Cajuste in the third round, but he is still on the non-football injury list after undergoing quad surgery during the offseason. The team also signed veteran free agent Jared Veldheer, but he decided to retire after only eight days with the team. As a result of all the uncertainty, left guard Joe Thuney saw considerable reps at left tackle — in place of a rehabbing Isaiah Wynn — early during training camp.
The expectation, however, was that he might move inside again once third-year man Cole Croston returned off the physically unable to perform list. However, such a return will not happen: according to ESPN’s Field Yates, the team has decided to release Croston with a non-football injury designation today. The 25-year-old is now subject to the waiver wire and will revert to the Patriots’ season-ending injured reserve list if going unclaimed.
Croston originally joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent signing out of Iowa. Moving between the active roster and the practice squad during his two years with the team, he appeared in a combined six games: Croston saw in-game action in four contests — including the AFC Championship Game — in 2017, and in two more last season. All in all, however, he played just 17 snaps so far (12 on offense, 5 on special teams).
In order to fill the open roster spot created by Croston’s departure, the Patriots opted to bolster their interior depth by signing offensive tackle Martez Ivey. The 6-foot-5, 315-pound offensive lineman joined Florida as a five-star recruit in 2015 and went on to start 44 games for the school, earning second-team All-SEC honors over his last two years. Along the way, however, he never quite lived up to his expectations as a former top-two prospect.
As a result, Ivey went undrafted this year: his sloppy technique as a pass protector shied teams away from investing in him, despite bringing a solid frame to the table. Now, the 24-year-old has finally found a team — the one with the best offensive line coach in the NFL. The rookie will now get a chance to learn from Dante Scarnecchia, all while offering more developmental depth at the offensive tackle position.
With Ivey, a player capable of kicking inside to guard as well, in the fold instead of Croston, the Patriots’ depth at the position now looks as follows:
Starter: Isaiah Wynn (LT), Marcus Cannon (RT)
Backups: Dan Skipper, Cedrick Lang, Tyree St. Lous, Martez Ivey
Considering his draft status and that he joined New England this late during the process, Ivey should not be expected to be much more than a camp body. Given his upside, however, it would not be surprising if Scarnecchia at least turned him into a serviceable practice squad option.