With training camp underway, the New England Patriots currently have 78 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 one of the recent additions to New England’s roster.
Name: Paul Quessenberry
Position: Tight end
Jersey number: 48
Size: 6-foot-2, 250 pounds
Contract status: TBA
What is his experience? Quessenberry’s experience in the NFL is non-existent after he just signed his first pro deal this weekend. That said, he does have some football on his résumé nonetheless even though it came at a different position than the tight end spot he will play in New England: between 2011 and 2014, Quessenberry appeared in a combined 38 contests during his tenure at the Naval Academy. Playing as a defensive end, he registered 3.5 sacks as well as one fumble recovery, one forced fumble and two pass deflections.
Despite his experience with the Midshipmen, Quessenberry did not hear his name called during the NFL’s 2015 draft. He was invited to the Houston Texans’ rookie minicamp on a tryout basis — sharing a locker room with his brother and current Tennessee Titans offensive lineman David in the process — but was eventually not offered a deal. With no additional teams showing interest, Quessenberry decided to join the U.S. Marine Corps and spent the last four years serving as an infantry officer.
What did his 2019 season look like? Due to his military commitment, Quessenberry spent the 2019 season season out of football — just like the previous four. He was, however, allowed to train for a potential comeback attempt once his obligations to the Marines ended; working as a tight end/fullback hybrid. The 28-year-old was eventually invited to a tryout by the Patriots, who already employ former Navy long snapper Joe Cardona, before signing him to a free agency deal earlier this week.
What is his projected role? Despite having played along the defensive line in college, Quessenberry will try his luck on the other side of the ball upon entering the NFL five-and-a-half years removed from his final collegiate game. Listed as a tight end by the Patriots, he projects to serve primarily in a blocking capacity — offering potential depth behind roster locks Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene — either in-line or from an off-set position as an H-back or fullback-type player.
What is his special teams value? As is the case with most undrafted rookies, Quessenberry is also expected to have to make his way onto the team via the kicking game. The Patriots may not have used their tight ends much on special teams last year — the entire position depth chart combined for just 13 snaps in the game’s third phase — but the 28-year-old’s position and experience when it comes to tackling could help him carve out a role on both coverage and return squads.
Does he have positional versatility? Quessenberry has yet to prove himself at the pro level, so his positional versatility can only be guessed at this point in his career. As noted above, he could see action as both a blocking in-line tight end and in an H-back/fullback-type role. He could, of course, also offer depth along the defensive line even though it seems unlikely the team will actually employ him there unless he adds some more bulk to his frame.
What is his salary cap situation? While no details of Quessenberry’s free agency deal with the Patriots have yet been reported, the fact that he has no accrued seasons of NFL experience on his résumé means that his deal will be near the minimum for a player of his status — one that is essentially a rookie despite last playing a college game during the 2014 season. Either way, Quessenberry’s deal will not impact New England’s salary cap space for the time being under the league’s top-51 stipulation.
What is his roster outlook? Quessenberry may bring an impressive backstory to the table, but he can be seen as one of the biggest roster-long shots in recent training camp memory. That being said, his path onto the team appears to be an easier one compared to other positions. After all, New England has only two locks at the position in the form of the aforementioned Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene. The other tight ends on the roster — Ryan Izzo, Jake Burt, Rashod Berry, Paul Butler — are all competing against Quessenberry for practice reps and a roster spot. He will therefore get an opportunity, even though it will take an immense effort from him to beat out the more experienced players on the team.