With one month to go until they are scheduled to report to training camp, 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 a member of New England’s linebacker group.
Name: Terez Hall
Position: Move linebacker
Jersey number: 59
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6-foot-1, 230 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2020 (2021 ERFA)
What is his experience? While Hall’s experience in the league is limited to one season with the Patriots, he does have plenty of football on his résumé stemming from his time at the University of Missouri. Over his four seasons at the school between 2015 and 2018, Hall appeared in a combined 48 games — the final 26 of which as the team’s starting weak-side linebacker. In this role, he developed into a consistent presence for the Tigers and one of their best players during his junior and senior campaigns.
After becoming a starter in 2017, Hall registered a combined 159 tackles of which 21.5 resulted in a loss of yardage for the offense. He also notched six sacks, including a team-high five during his senior campaign, caught an interception and forced one fumble — all while being one of the team leaders both on and off the field. Accordingly, he was named a team captain in 2018. Despite his success at Missouri, however, Hall did not hear his name called during the draft and had to go through rookie free agency to join the NFL.
What did his 2019 season look like? When he arrived in New England as a rookie free agent, Hall joined a crowded off-the-ball/move linebacker group that did not only see the return of established veterans Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Elandon Roberts, but also the addition of free agent Jamie Collins. Accordingly, Hall found himself near the bottom of the depth chart and saw only limited action with the top unit in practice — a usage that continued into the Patriots’ preseason.
Hall saw consistent playing time during the team’s four exhibition contests and was on the field for 123 of a possible defensive 247 (49.8%). He registered 13 tackles as a well as a 2.5 quarterback pressures (0.5 sacks, 1 hit, 1 hurry) along the way, but showed some weaknesses when asked to drop back into coverage: the first-year man surrendered receptions on all seven of his passing targets for a combined 75 yards. Hall had his moments, but it became evident that he was behind other linebackers.
The same also was true on special teams. While he was on the field for 32 of 99 snaps in the kicking game (32.3%) and moved through different units, his impact was limited. Seeing the team release him on roster cutdown day was therefore no surprise — as was him being re-signed to the practice squad shortly thereafter. Hall went on to spend his entire rookie season on New England’s developmental roster before signing a one-year futures pact following the team’s playoff exit in January.
What is his projected role? Hall’s tenure with the Patriots started as an off-the-ball linebacker, but the team opted to increase his role as the 2019 preseason went along to also include some regular action as an edge defender. Accordingly, the 23-year-old is projected to enter his second year in the system as a move option that should get regular looks both inside the formation and as an outside linebacker — bolstering the depth at both spots.
What is his special teams value? While Hall did not show up on the stat sheet as a special teamer last preseason, he did get plenty of opportunities. The Patriots used him primarily as a front-line player on their kickoff and punt return units, but also opted to occasionally employ him on kickoff coverage as well as field goal and extra point teams. Heading into 2020, he should be expected to remain an active member of New England’s kicking game squads.
Does he have positional versatility? As noted above, the Patriots decided to increase Hall’s defensive responsibilities as last year’s preseason went along. While the results were up-and-down at times, the coaching staff’s decision illustrates how the team at least saw some potential in him as a move linebacker option. Will he get another crack in this versatile role in 2020? That remains to be seen, but he does offer some experience.
What is his salary cap situation? Before the expiration of his practice squad contract, the Patriots re-signed Hall via a one-year futures deal that will give him a chance to compete for a roster or practice squad spot once again this year. The contract itself is pretty straight forward: it does not include any guarantees and simply pays him a $610,000 salary. Given this structure, Hall is currently not counting against New England’s salary cap under the NFL’s Top-51 rule.
What is his roster outlook? As was the case last year, Hall is facing an uphill climb to make the roster. That said, his chances seem to have improved compared to his 2019 rookie campaign: not only are three of the team’s top five move/off-the-ball defenders from a year ago — Van Noy, Collins, Roberts — no longer part of the equation, he also brings one year of experience to the table. Hall could therefore see increased opportunities in his competition against veteran Brandon Copeland and rookies Cassh Maluia, De’Jon Harris and Kyahva Tezino. At the very least, he again appears to be a candidate for the practice squad.