While the quarterback Tom Brady’s announcement that he would leave the New ENgland Patriots dominated the headlines, his now-former team went out to make just their second outside addition of the offseason — Don’t you forget about cornerback Lenzy Pipkins! — and first of this year’s free agency cycle: the Patriots and former Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers wide receiver Damiere Byrd reportedly agreed to a one-year contract.
Byrd is coming to New England off of a career year: appearing in 11 of the Cardinals’ games in 2019 and playing 43 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, the former undrafted rookie registered 32 catches for 359 yards and one touchdown. While the 27-year-old is not expected to be an immediate impact player for the Patriots, he does add experience as well as versatility to the team’s receiving corps and special teams units.
With that being said, here are five things to know about Byrd.
Byrd is primarily a perimeter receiver
While his 5-foot-9, 180-pound frame makes him look like a prototypical slot receiver, Byrd actually saw the vast majority of his playing time on the outside in Arizona. He was on the field for 454 of the team’s offensive snaps, and lined up split out wide — primarily on the left side of the formation — on 93.6% of them (425). For comparison, he played in the slot on only 6.2% of his snaps (28) and in the backfield on 0.2% of them (1).
This usage was nothing new for him considering that the Panthers also used him that way during his first four years in the league: Byrd saw much more action split out wide (74.4%; 180 snaps) than in the slot (17.3%; 42 snaps) or elsewhere in the offensive lineup (8.3%; 20 snaps).
Byrd is among the fastest players in the NFL
In college, Byrd was a two-sport athlete. Not only did he play football and finish his four-year career with 68 receptions for 1,265 yards and 10 touchdowns, he also was part of South Carolina’s track team. Byrd still holds the fifth-fastest 55-meter time (6.24 seconds) and the sixth-fastest 60-meter time (6.66) in school history. His speed also was a useful tool on the football field, and he showed it off in the pre-draft process.
At South Carolina’s pro day in 2015, Byrd clocked the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.6 seconds. While five years have passed since that day, he is still among the fastest players in the league.
Byrd was once one of the league’s better kick returners
While Byrd does have experience as a kick returner, it is comparatively limited: he ran back only 26 combined kicks — 14 kickoffs and 12 punts — since entering the league in 2015. That being said, he did have some success in both of those roles while still with the Panthers. He returned 10 kickoffs for a combined 294 yards (29.4 yards) and a touchdown during his time with the team and also averaged an impressive 9.4 yards on his 12 punt returns.
Byrd has some pretty reliable hands
Byrd may not have posted the most impressive receiving statistics over the course of his career in the NFL — he has 44 receptions for 488 yards and three touchdowns on his pro football résumé — but he did show off some strong hands in the process. In 2019, his first and only season with the Cardinals, this was on full display as a look at the numbers illustrates (via Pro Football Focus).
In total, Byrd was targeted 45 times over the course of his 11 in-game appearances, with 33 of the passes thrown his way labeled as “catchable.” Only one of those targets eventually hit the ground and was credited to him as a drop, giving him a drop rate of just 3%. This number ties him for 10th place among all wide receivers in the NFL that saw 30+ catchable targets over the course of the 2019 season.
Byrd struggled with injuries in his final two years in Carolina
Byrd’s time in Carolina came to an end during 2019’s free agency, but the writing was already on the wall before that given that his final two years were marked by injuries. In 2017, he injured his leg in December and the Panthers were forced to place him on injured reserve. One year later, the team again had to move him to IR following a broken arm suffered in November. In Arizona, meanwhile, Byrd missed two games last year due to a hamstring injury.
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