With not even two weeks to go until their entire roster is scheduled to report to training camp, the New England Patriots currently have the league-allowed 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 did the last three years as well — 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 tight end group.
Name: Jake Burt
Position: Tight end
Jersey number: TBD
Size: 6-foot-3, 260 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2022 (2023 RFA)
What is his experience? Burt’s NFL journey started shortly after this year’s draft, when New England added him as a member of their rookie free agency class. He has participated in the Patriots’ virtual offseason workouts and their rookie developmental program since then, but due to the Coronavirus pandemic has yet to participate in actual on-field work alongside his new teammates. That being said, Burt does bring some experience to the table from his five-year tenure at Boston College.
While he was forced to miss his entire 2016 sophomore year due to a torn ACL and also had to end his 2019 season prematurely after hurting his collarbone, Burt was still able to appear in 36 games for the Eagles. Along the way, he was used primarily as a blocker within the team’s run-first offense, which resulted in some rather pedestrian receiving statistics: the Massachusetts native caught just 23 passes during his time with the program for a combined 307 yards and two touchdowns.
What did his 2019 season look like? While his 2018 season was the statistically best of his college career up until that point — he appeared in 10 games and caught six passes for 83 yards — Burt still had considerable room for growth as a receiving option. His final season as an Eagle may not have been overwhelming from this aspect, but it once again was a step in the right direction: appearing in 11 of Boston College’s 13 games, Burt registered 15 catches for a combined 212 yards as well as one touchdown.
Once again used as a blocker rather than a receiver, Burt played a pivotal role in his team’s success on the ground: Boston College attempted 50.7 rushes a game in 2019 (compared to just 23.5 passes) and gained 3,540 yards. He still had some moments when called upon to serve in the passing game, however, such as his 55-yard touchdown catch against Richmond or his four-catch, 66-yard performance against Florida State. All in all, he finished the season as his team’s fourth best receiver in terms of catches and yards.
Unfortunately, Burt suffered a broken collarbone during the late-November matchup with Notre Dame. The injury forced him to miss the final two games of his college career.
What is his projected role? While Burt’s frame — he is listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds on New England’s official roster — would be solid for an all-around tight end, his best use at the next level will likely come as a blocker. As such, he could see considerable action as an in-line tight end in the mold of ex-Patriot Dwayne Allen: his primary role would be to serve as a blocker in the running game, while he would occasionally be used as a receiver as well.
What is his special teams value? Just like most other undrafted free agents, Burt will need to leave his mark in the kicking game in order to make a case for a roster or practice squad spot. All in all, his usage could look a lot like Allen’s between 2017 and 2018: he saw regular action on the Patriots’ kick return team and also was used on both punt units from time to time. Burt being employed like this would not be a surprise.
Does he have positional versatility? The tight end position is in itself one of versatility, but the Patriots could opt to use Burt in an expanded role compared to the one he played at Boston College. While he was primarily an in-line blocker for the Eagles, New England may opt to use him in the backfield and as an H-back as well — all while possibly also giving him some looks as a slot receiver and flexed out wide to the perimeter.
What is his salary cap situation? Burt agreed to a standard three-year free agency contract with the Patriots after going undrafted. The pact includes $85,000 in guarantees, among them $5,000 in the form of a signing bonus. At the moment, the 2020 proration of this bonus — $1,666 — is all that is hitting New England’s salary cap under the NFL’s top-51 rule. If Burt makes the roster, however, his cap number will jump to $611,666 via the addition of his salary.
What is his roster outlook? One of four rookie tight ends to be added to the equation this year, Burt will compete for the third spot on the depth chart alongside third-round roster locks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene over the next few weeks. In order to earn that role, the 23-year-old will need to beat out not just fellow undrafted free agent Rashod Berry but also veterans Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo — both of whom have a clear edge in terms of experience. Realistically, Burt is facing an uphill battle to win the TE3 role. That said, a solid summer could earn him a spot on the practice squad.