The New England Patriots’ linebacker corps has seen quite a bit of turnover so far in 2020 — from Dont’a Hightower opting out of the season, to Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts all leaving via free agency, to Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings and Cassh Maluia being added via the draft. Also part of this process was Brandon Copeland, who himself joined the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in March.
Now, Copeland will likely be part of another transaction: being moved to season-ending injured reserve. As first reported by Pro Football Talk, after all, the 29-year-old suffered a pectoral injury during Sunday’s loss against the San Francisco 49ers that will knock him out for the remainder of the season.
After signing a one-year, $1.05 million minimum salary deal with the Patriots, Copeland was able to make the team’s 53-man roster as a rotational linebacker and core special teamer. In this dual-role he appeared in all six of New England’s games so far while playing 16.2 percent of the team’s defensive snaps as well as 80.6 percent in the kicking game — the third highest playing time share among special teamers behind only Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel.
Copeland’s contributions on defense may have been rather limited so far but his loss still hurts the Patriots’ overall linebacker depth, especially considering that he has been used as a move option both on and off the line of scrimmage.
With him headed to injured reserve, the team’s off-the-ball linebacker corps is now down to top option Ja’Whaun Bentley and third-round rookie Anfernee Jennings. Safety Adrian Phillips has spent most of the season so far as a de facto linebacker as well, so he too factors into the mix. New England also has special teamer Cassh Maluia as a potential option as well as fellow rookie Josh Uche, who returned to practice off of injured reserve last week but has not yet been activated to the 53-man roster.
On the edge, on the other hand, the Patriots still have a healthy rotation: John Simon, Chase Winovich, Shilique Calhoun and Derek Rivers are a quality top-four, with both Jennings and Uche also capable of playing the position as well.
As for Copeland, he will be headed for unrestricted free agency next spring after his first and possibly only year with the Patriots. Over the first seven seasons since of his career before arriving in New England, he had spent time with the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, Detroit Lions and New York Jets.