With training camp underway, the New England Patriots currently have 76 players officially 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 continue to 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 the latest addition to New England’s roster.
Name: Darius Kilgo
Position: Defensive tackle
Jersey number: TBD
Opening day age: 28
Size: 6-foot-3, 320 pounds
Contract status: TBD
What is his experience? Coming off a five-year career at the University of Maryland, Kilgo had to wait until the sixth round of the NFL’s 2015 draft before the Denver Broncos picked him up as the 203rd overall selection. His stint with the club would turn out to be the most successful of his career: Kilgo went on to appear in 18 games over one-and-a-half seasons as a Bronco, and also earned a Super Bowl ring with the organization. In November 2017, however, Denver parted ways with him — thus starting his time as a journeyman.
Kilgo first joined the Patriots’ practice squad, getting another championship ring in the process, before stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans. While he played 11 games for Tennessee during the 2018 season, he failed to find a permanent home and was released the following spring. After a one-year stint with the Detroit Lions, Kilgo entered free agency but had to wait until earlier this week to find a new home — until the Patriots brought him back for a second stint.
What did his 2019 season look like? Even though his 2018 season with the Titans was a successful one compared to the rest of his career, the team decided to move on from Kilgo during the offseason: with Tennessee drafting Jeffery Simmons in the first round and also signing veteran Brent Urban as a free agent, Kilgo suddenly became expendable as a member of the defensive line and was let go in late April. It did not take long for him to find a new home, though, as the Lions picked him up just three days after his release.
Kilgo’s first and eventually only season in Detroit was off to a rocky start, however, as he opened training camp on the non-football injury list. Things did not get any better: Kilgo played 15 of a possible 84 defensive snaps (17.9%) during the Lions’ preseason opener against the Patriots and registered a run-game tackle and a pass breakup, but he also left the game in the second quarter with what later turned out to be a torn quad. The team subsequently placed him on season-ending injured reserve two days later.
What is his projected role? The Patriots have some solid talent atop their defensive tackle depth chart in the form of Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and Beau Allen. The three veterans build a formidable three-man rotation, with Kilgo projected to serve as a backup option whose strengths lie primarily in the running game: he is a big-bodied two-gapper who functions best when lined up inside the formation as either a nose, a 1-technique tackle or a 3-technique end.
What is his special teams value? Kilgo did not appear in a regular season game during his first stint with the Patriots, but the four preseason contests he played with the club give an indication about how it might plan to use him in the kicking game again this year. Back then, he played 14 special teams snaps as a member of New England’s field goal and extra point blocking units — a role he is expected to reassume now that he has been added to the mix again.
Does he have positional versatility? Kilgo’s versatility is somewhat limited given his size. At 6-foot-3, 320 pounds he is best suited to serve as a big-bodied defensive tackle who can clog lanes in the passing game but neither provide much upside as a pass rusher nor move around the defensive line on a regular basis. That said, he does have some experience playing different techniques when aligned inside the opposing offensive tackles.
What is his salary cap situation? The details of Kilgo’s free agency deal with the Patriots have not been reported just yet, but it seems unlikely that the contract will have a significant impact on the team’s books. The expectation is that the 28-year-old’s pact will be for one year and carry a minimum salary charge of $825,000 with no guarantees. While this would qualify him for a top-51 spot on New England’s roster, the team’s cap space would decrease by just $150,000 for the time being.
What is his roster outlook? Kilgo’s chances of making New England’s 53-man roster or practice squad this year will be impacted by three primary factors: his experience within the system and whether or not he can take advantage of it, his ability to quickly get up to speed, and his health coming off a year-long stint on the sidelines. Unless he shines as a run-stuffer on early downs and in short-yardage situations, however, he still appears to face an uphill battle especially when compared to a higher-upside player such as Byron Cowart.