Following the NFL draft and subsequent free agency period, the New England Patriots currently have the offseason maximum of 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 draft selections.
Name: Justin Rohrwasser
Position: Place kicker
Jersey number: TBD
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6-foot-3, 230 pounds
Contract status: Unsigned draft pick
What is his experience? Given his status as a rookie — Rohrwasser arrived in New England as the 159th overall pick in last month’s draft — his NFL experience is limited to a few days of getting acclimated to the pro level. That said, he did enter the pros with plenty of kicking on his résumé: Rohrwasser spent two years at the University of Rhode Island before transferring to Marshall in 2018. During his college career, he was successful on 77.5% of his field goal attempts (48 of 62) and on 96.7% of his extra point kicks (118 of 122). Rohrwasser also saw time as a kickoff specialist, and in 2018 registered a pair of fumble recoveries on kick coverage.
What did his 2019 season look like? Rohrwasser entered his redshirt senior season with the Thundering Herd as the team’s undisputed place kicker. As such, he appeared in all 13 of the school’s games in 2019 and was brought onto the field for a combined 57 kicking attempts: Rohrwasser made 18 of his 21 field goal tries — including a 53-yarder as time expired to win Marshall’s game over Western Kentucky in late October — for a success rate of 85.7%. Furthermore, he connected on all but one of his 36 extra points (97.2%) and was perfect on his last 23 straight over 10 games.
Speaking of perfect, Rohrwasser also found success on both his field goal attempts from 50+ yards out. Not only did he kick the aforementioned game-winner against the Hilltoppers, which was also a career-high, he did hit a 50-yarder against Central Florida in his final collegiate game as well. His strong leg also was on display on kickoffs: he took the field 62 times as Marshall’s kickoff specialist, and allowed only 28 returns while kicking 33 touchbacks (one of his kickoffs also sailed out of bounds). As a member of the team’s kick coverage units, he also registered a pair of tackles.
What is his projected role? While Rohrwasser is built like a linebacker at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, his job description is pretty straight forward: he will serve as a place kicker and kickoff specialist, therefore filling the role previously held by New England’s all-time scoring leader Stephen Gostkowski.
What is his special teams value? Rohrwasser will perform field goal and extra point tries and also play a role on kick coverage: the rookie, who registered two career tackles and two fumble recoveries at Marshall, appears to be a realistic candidate to serve as the Patriots’ kickoff specialist moving forward — a role previously held by place kickers in New England, but one that went to punter Jake Bailey in 2019 following Gostkowski’s season-ending injury. Rohrwasser could also take over Bailey’s former role as onside kicker.
Does he have positional versatility? The only real versatility Rohrwasser brings to the table is that he has experience performing both place kicks and kickoffs. Marshall did not use him in any other capacity, nor was he a part of any trick play formations.
What is his salary cap situation? Rohrwasser remains an unsigned draft pick for the moment, but will eventually agree to a standard four-year contract with the Patriots. According to Over the Cap, the total value of his deal is projected at $3.61 million with his salary cap impact for 2020 estimated at $688,849. As such, barring any other moves, Rohrwasser will not count against New England’s cap until the top-51 rule gets lifted in September: his contract will not be among the 51 most valuable on the roster once signed.
What is his roster outlook? Between Gostkowski’s release in March and selecting Rohrwasser in the fifth-round of the draft, the Patriots did not have a kicker under contract. In fact, the rookie is the lone player on the team to fill this role at the moment — meaning that he is the clear favorite to enter the season as New England’s kicker even if another option like veteran free agent Nick Folk gets added to the mix. Realistically, however, no outside hire will unseat the 23-year-old: Rohrwasser will be the Patriots’ place kicker in 2020 and possibly beyond.