With training camp underway, the New England Patriots currently have 77 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: Tyler Gauthier
Jersey number: TBD
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6-foot-4, 300 pounds
Contract status: TBD
What is his experience? Gauthier’s experience in the NFL is rather limited give that he has yet to appear in a non-preseason game and has spent most of his rookie campaign in 2019 on the Patriots’ practice squad. Nevertheless, there is a lot of football on his résumé beyond his time in New England and later with the Jacksonville Jaguars stemming from his four-year stint at the University of Miami. Gauthier started 29 games for the Hurricanes during his time, including at both at the center and the guard positions.
After serving as a reserve in 2015, Gauthier became the team’s starting left guard for the final four games of his sophomore season. The next two years, he started 25 straight contests at center — along the way proving himself not just as a durable player but also a stout pass protector: he surrendered just four quarterback disruptions as Miami’s number one center. But while Gauthier’s impressive play earned him an honorable All-ACC mention in 2017, it did not help him get drafted one-and-a-half years later.
What did his 2019 season look like? Despite his experience and productivity, Gauthier generated little momentum during the pre-draft process — he was neither invited to the Senior Bowl nor the NFL’s Scouting Combine — and seeing him go unselected was no real surprise. He did get picked up by the Patriots during the subsequent free agency period, though, and was thus reunited with his former college roommates Braxton Barrios and Trent Harris. Just like the two, however, Gauthier was also not guaranteed a spot on the team.
That said, he did get his fair share of opportunities during the preseason: Gauthier was on the field for 141 of a possible 294 offensive snaps (48%) during New England’s exhibition slate, and saw action at all three interior line positions. Along the way, he gave up only two quarterback pressures in 77 pass-blocking snaps. While the numbers did look good, Gauthier’s play as a whole — especially when it came to run blocking — was ultimately too inconsistent for the team to keep him around through roster cuts.
Gauthier was eventually released and had to spend the first month of the regular season on the open market. He did eventually get another chance on October 15: not only was he drafted by the XFL that day, he also decided to re-sign with the Patriots via their practice squad. The rookie spent two months on New England’s developmental roster before getting signed to the Jacksonville Jaguars’ active roster. Gauthier was a healthy scratch for each of the team’s final three games and was released last week.
What is his projected role? Gauthier, whose return to the Patriots was made official on Wednesday, is a jack-of-all-trades along the interior offensive line. While seeing most of his action both in college and at the pro level at center, he also is capable of playing the two guard positions. While by no means a starting-caliber player based on his first year in the league, the 23-year-old does have the versatility to compete for a backup spot behind starters David Andrews, Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason.
What is his special teams value? Even though he was fighting for his roster life last summer, Gauthier — for one reason or another — was unable to earn regular playing time in the kicking game. In preseason, for example, he played just five total snaps as a protector on field goals and extra points. This role could be in the cards for him again in 2020, even though he will likely need to earn more snaps to have a realistic chance of making the team or its practice squad.
Does he have positional versatility? His versatility may be one of Gauthier’s best traits. While he did spend most of his time in New England and Miami at the center position, as noted above, he also has seen some action at the two guard spots during last year’s preseason: the Patriots lined him up for 30 offensive snaps at left guard and 14 more on the right side during their final game against the New York Giants.
What is his salary cap situation? While the official details of his contract with the Patriots are not known at this point in time, the expectation is that Gauthier signed a minimum-salary one-year deal with his old club. Accordingly, he will not count against the team’s books at the time being: his projected $675,000 does not qualify him for a spot on New England’s top-51 contracts, and he likely does also not have any guarantees in his pact.
What is his roster outlook? While he does bring versatility to New England’s young offensive line, Gauthier finds himself in a similar situation as last year: he will have to fight for his roster life over the course of training camp, and appears to be more of a practice squad candidate than one for the 53-man roster. That said, if he can make the famous second-year jump and take advantage of his experience in the system, he could very well surprise. The odds are against him, but nothing seems impossible in this unique summer.