With training camp underway, the New England Patriots currently have 80 players officially under contract. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns later this week 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: Andre Baccellia
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: TBD (training camp No. 67)
Size: 5-foot-10, 170 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2020 (2021 ERFA)
What is his experience? Baccellia originally arrived in the NFL earlier this year, when the Kansas City Chiefs signed him as an undrafted free agent. The rookie failed to find a permanent spot on the world champions’ roster, however, and was released again in mid-August before joining the Patriots last week. He may lack any considerable NFL experience besides a handful of practices in Kansas City and New England, but Baccellia does have plenty of football on his résumé nevertheless.
Before arriving in Kansas City, after all, the wide receiver spent five years at the University of Washington and appeared in a combined 48 games. Along the way, he combined to catch 107 passes for 1,183 yards and five touchdowns. He also registered 10 carries for an additional 119 yards and one score. Baccellia posted some solid numbers but was never a true standout performer for the Huskies: his best season of 2018 saw him finish as second in both receptions (55) and yards (584). His other years he was a rotational option at best.
What did his 2019 season look like? Coming off the best year of his career, Baccellia decided to stay in school for a fifth season. While the decision did make sense at the time — his stock was rising but he was not yet a prospect to get drafted — it ultimately did not lead to him earning an increased role in Washington’s offense: appearing in 12 out of 14 possible games, the senior receiver returned to the ranks of the depth options and eventually finished the season ranked just seventh in terms of yards from scrimmage.
While his final campaign in Seattle started well — he caught five passes for 84 yards and a touchdown against Eastern Washington — Baccellia was unable to build on his early-season success. He eventually finished his final collegiate year with just 29 receptions for 314 yards and four scores. While he also was handed the football on four rushing attempts for a combined 35 yards and another trip to the end zone, and even scored once on a fumble recovery, Baccellia entered the pre-draft process with little momentum on his side.
What is his projected role? Baccellia’s size may make him look like more of a traditional slot receiver, but he actually has seen plenty of action on the outside as well. Accordingly, the Patriots could project him as a Z-option in the mold of Julian Edelman, Gunner Olszewski or Jakobi Meyers. While he is more of a developmental player at this stage in his career, the 23-year-old’s speed — he ran a 4.28-second 40-yard dash during an improvised pro day workout — and versatility could make for a package specific rotational wideout.
What is his special teams value? Despite his straight-line speed and experience moving in space, the Huskies never trusted Baccellia to serve as a return man — something that could change in New England. Even if not used as the deep man on kickoff or punt returns, he could still have some value in the game’s third phase as a gunner on coverage teams or a front-line blocker on both return squads.
Does he have positional versatility? Baccellia’s versatility may be one of his best assets, regardless of his potential role as a Z and slot receiver. As noted above, he was used not just as a wide receiver but also occasionally as a running back. Furthermore, he has attempted three passes in college: two of them were completed for 66 total yards, while the third was intercepted. Still, he arrives in New England as a player with plenty of versatility to his name.
What is his salary cap situation? Given that he had already signed an undrafted rookie contract with the Chiefs after the draft, Baccellia’s deal with the Patriots does not cover three years but rather just one: he will be an exclusive rights free agent next offseason, while currently carrying a salary cap hit of $610,000 — a number that does not qualify him for the top-51 list under the NFL’s offseason cap rules. Baccellia will only count against New England’s books if he makes the roster or practice squad.
What is his roster outlook? Arriving in New England comparatively late in the process, Baccellia essentially has one week to prove his value to the team’s offense: either he makes the most out of his practice opportunities to have a shot at making the practice squad, or his time with the Patriots will come to a quick end again. Realistically, he is fighting an uphill battle against more experienced players such as Devin Ross, Jeff Thomas or Isaiah Zuber. If the team suffers some losses on the post-cutdown day waiver wire, however, Baccellia might just be able to sneak onto the developmental squad.