With one month to go until they are 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 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 offensive line.
Name: Jermaine Eluemunor
Jersey number: 65
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6-foot-4, 335 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2020 (2021 UFA)
What is his experience? Following a five-year college career that started at Lackawanna College and ended at Texas A&M, Eluemunor was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the fifth round of the NFL’s 2017 draft. Despite his status as a Day Three pick, the rookie was able to make the team’s active roster and over the next two seasons went on to appear in 17 regular season games as well as one playoff contest. Along the way, Eluemunor also started three games — two at right guard in 2017, and one at left tackle in 2018.
Eluemunor, who was voted to the Pro Football Writers’ All-Rookie Team, had an encouraging start to his professional career but never quite established himself as a key member of Baltimore’s offensive line: he was released during 2018’s roster cutdowns and later signed to the practice squad before again being promoted to the active roster, and eventually was traded to New England ahead of his third year with the club. In his first year with the Patriots, Eluemunor filled his usual role as a versatile backup along the offensive line.
What did his 2019 season look like? As noted above, Eluemunor’s 2019 season began with the Ravens: he spent the entire offseason workout program and all of training camp in Baltimore, and appeared in the first two preseason games at both left guard and left tackle. Even though he delivered some solid performances — Eluemunor played 99 of a possible 140 offensive snaps (70.7%) over those two weeks and surrendered just two quarterback pressures — the team decided to move on from him in late August.
Together with a sixth-round draft choice the following year, the third-year man was sent to New England in return for a fourth-round selection. After unsurprisingly making his new team’s 53-man roster, Eluemunor saw his first action in a Patriots uniform just 11 days after the trade: he was inserted into the lineup at left guard after an injury to starting right tackle Marcus Cannon forced Joe Thuney to move into the suddenly open position. Eluemunor’s eight offensive snaps that day, however, remained a season-high for him.
All in all, the first-year Patriot appeared in 10 of New England’s combined 17 games in 2020. As a backup lineman who received occasional playing time at both guard and tackle but never proved himself much more than an emergency option, he was on the field for just 29 of 1,210 offensive snaps (2.4%) — primarily as a run-blocker in late-game situations. In fact, Eluemunor received most of his snaps as a member of the Patriots’ field goal and extra point kicking units: he played a combined 38 snaps on special teams (of 474; 8%).
What is his projected role? While Eluemunor did arrive in New England relatively late last summer, his first year with the team does give us some indication about how it sees him and his role heading into 2020. With no changes to the starter-level personnel this offseason, he is again projected to be employed as a versatile backup option along the offensive line — one that could help at both guard and tackle, effectively bolstering the depth at four of the five positions up front.
What is his special teams value? Eluemunor receiving more snaps in the kicking game than on the offensive side of the ball last season is more of a reflection of his status among the team’s linemen rather than his special teams prowess. That said, he did perform well as a front-line blocker on field goal and extra point tries. Accordingly, it would not be a surprise to see the Patriots use him in a similar fashion in 2020 if he makes the 53-man roster — no matter his eventual role on the squad.
Does he have positional versatility? Versatility may be Eluemunor’s biggest asset heading into the competition for a backup spot along New England’s offensive line. Not only did the team use him at left guard and right tackle last year, it also employed him as a tackle eligible on both sides of the line. Furthermore, the 25-year-old has experience playing right guard and left tackle as well from his time in Baltimore: all three of his career starts came at the two positions, as mentioned above.
What is his salary cap situation? Eluemunor entered the 2020 offseason as a restricted free agent, which prompted the Patriots to place the original-round tender on him before the start of free agency (one he signed in mid-April). Accordingly, the former fifth-round draft pick currently is on the team’s books with a salary cap number of $2.13 million. Given that none of it is guaranteed, however, Eluemunor appears to be a prime candidate to see his cap hit altered either through a release or an extension.
What is his roster outlook? While his positional versatility and the fact that Ted Karras left the team in free agency should help him, Eluemunor is facing considerable competition at both the tackle and guard positions. Even though the Patriots opted to place an RFA-tender on him earlier during the offseason, he is therefore far from a lock to make the 53-man roster this year: he will have to earn his spot on the team versus the young options that were brought aboard over the last two years.