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Patriots 2020 roster breakdown: Cody Davis bolsters New England’s depth on defense and special teams

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Related: Patriots roster breakdown: S Adrian Phillips

New York Jets v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Following the NFL draft and subsequent free agency period, the New England Patriots currently have 89 of a possible 90 players under contract. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns on September 5 and ultimately make the active team. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots keep their dynasty alive in Year One after Tom Brady.

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

Hard facts

Name: Cody Davis

Position: Safety

Jersey number: TBD

Opening day age: 31

Size: 6-foot-2, 205 pounds

Contract status: Under contract through 2020 (2021 UFA)

Experience

What is his experience? Davis started his NFL career as an undrafted free agent signing by the then-St. Louis Rams in 2013. While his defensive playing time was limited early on in his career, he immediately carved out a spot in the kicking game. During his five years with the organization, his role evolved and he eventually was a regular on five of the Rams’ special teams units between 2015 and 2017 — all while also seeing increased action as a rotational safety during his final two years with the club, playing over 500 snaps on defense.

After appearing in a combined 66 regular season and playoff games for the team, Davis joined the Jacksonville Jaguars as a free agent in 2018. At that point, his usage began to change a bit: he was no longer used prominently on the defensive side of the ball, but remained a core special teamer. Overall, he was on the field for 32 games as a Jaguar, playing a combined 745 of a possible 866 special teams snaps in 2018 and 2019 (86%). Davis also registered 18 kicking game tackles and one block during his time in Jacksonville.

What did his 2019 season look like? During the final season of his contract with the Jaguars, Davis again saw considerable action in the kicking game. In fact, he led Jacksonville in special teams playing time for the second straight year. Appearing in all 16 of the team’s games, was on the field for 382 of a possible 439 snaps (87%) in the kicking game and proved to be one of the league’s most consistent performers in the game’s third phase: Davis not only registered eight tackles, he also blocked a kick.

During Jacksonville’s Week 9 overseas loss against the Houston Texans, he burst through the line to get his hands on an extra point attempt. The block was not the only big play Davis made during the 2019 season, though, because he also caught his second career pass in Week 16 against the Atlanta Falcons: on a 4th-and-4 in the second quarter and with the punt team on the field, Jaguars punter Logan Cooke threw a short pass to Davis that he took for seven yards to move the chains.

While Davis was once more featured heavily on special teams, he also saw an increase in playing time on defense: after playing just 10 snaps on that side of the ball during his first season with the Jaguars, he was on the field for 68 of 1,051 (6.5%) in 2019. Serving primarily as a free safety and getting most of his action in passing situations, Davis registered five tackles and also was able to break up one of the two passes thrown into his coverage (the other one also fell incomplete).

2020 preview

What is his projected role? Even though Davis offers considerable experience as a depth safety, his primary role with the Patriots is projected to come in the kicking game: with veteran Nate Ebner now with the New York Giants, Davis could help fill the void created by his departure and see playing time on all four coverage units as well as the team’s field goal and extra point teams. Furthermore, he could also serve as an emergency free safety behind projected top-two Devin McCourty and Kyle Dugger.

What is his special teams value? Davis is one of the most experienced kick coverage players in football, and will join a seasoned core in New England also consisting of Matthew Slater, Brandon King, Brandon Bolden and Justin Bethel. He is therefore expected to be among the team leaders in kicking game snaps, while also potentially taking over the now-vacant role of personal punt protector that was previously held by Ebner. But even if the Patriots opt to use him differently, he will get plenty of looks on all four coverage squads.

Does he have positional versatility? Davis offers the desired versatility to be heavily featured in the kicking game: he has experience on punt and kickoff coverage teams, both return squads, and on place kick blocking units — all while moving over the different formations on a regular basis. On top of this, he also was used all over the defensive secondary during his time with the Rams: in 2017, his final season with the club, he played free safety (158 snaps), strong safety (94 snaps), slot cornerback (10 snaps) and perimeter cornerback (6 snaps).

What is his salary cap situation? After the expiration of his contract with the Jaguars, the Patriots brought Davis on board via a one-year, $1.5 million deal that does include $300,000 in guarantees and thus amounts to a salary cap hit of $1.5 million. Subtracting the guarantees from this number shows that New England could create $1.2 million in gross savings by parting ways with the veteran special teamer and defensive back.

What is his roster outlook? As evidenced by his contract, Davis will need to earn his spot on the Patriots’ roster this year and cannot be considered a lock to make the team. With three safeties guaranteed to be on the team (Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips) and a fourth having very good chances (Patrick Chung), the battle for the fifth spot could come down to Davis or Terrence Brooks. While Brooks has more experience within the system — something that could prove crucial in light of this year’s offseason procedures — Davis has proven himself a reliable special teams presence and depth defensive back.