The New England Patriots have the maximum 53 players on their active roster and 16 more on their practice squad, but they are still keeping an eye out on potential reinforcements — or at least to update their injury emergency lists. The latest player to pop up on the team’s radar is safety J.T. Hassell, who is in Foxborough to undergo Covid-19 testing for a potential free agency tryout later during the week (per ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss).
Coming off a college career that started at South Dakota State and later saw him spend two seasons at Florida Tech, Hassell did not hear his name called during the NFL’s 2019 draft. He did find a home shortly thereafter, however, when the Cleveland Browns signed him to a three-year undrafted rookie contract. The deal allowed the 5-foot-11, 200-pound defensive back to participate in the team’s offseason workouts and later training camp and preseason.
After appearing in all four of the Browns’ exhibition contests and allowed four catches on five targets for 91 yards and a touchdown, Hassell was let go during final roster cutdowns. However, he eventually made his way back onto the team’s practice squad. In late November, he was promoted to the active roster and went on to appear in four games. Playing primarily on special teams, he registered four kicking game tackles.
Despite ending his rookie season on Cleveland’s 53-man team, Hassell was unable to carve out a role this year and was let go during roster cutdowns. The 25-year-old has remained on the open market ever since and is now trying to find a new home by leaving a positive impression on a team that has arguably the deepest defensive backfield in all of football.
Led by Devin McCourty, the Patriots’ safety group also features veterans Adrian Phillips and Terrence Brooks as well as second-round rookie Kyle Dugger. Furthermore, key special teamer Cody Davis offers additional depth. If Hassell is brought aboard following his workout, it will therefore likely be via the practice squad.