The New England Patriots currently have an open spot on their 53-man active roster, and it seems likely that it will be filled before the team’s Week 4 game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. While one of the four players now eligible to return off injured reserve could be added, there also is a chance that the team decides to go a different route by either promoting a player from the practice squad or bringing in reinforcements from outside the organization.
Enter linebacker Michael Pinckney. According to a report by ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, the undrafted rookie currently is in Foxborough to undergo Covid-19 testing ahead of a potential free agency workout. While it seems unlikely that Pinckney will be added to the Patriots’ active team at this point in time, he is a name to watch as a possible candidate to bolster the club’s linebacker depth on the practice squad.
A four-year starter at the University of Miami, Pinckney served as a weak side linebacker in the Hurricanes’ 4-3 scheme and appeared in 49 games over the course of his career. Along the way, he posted some solid numbers: he registered 267 tackles (42.0 for loss) as well as 14.5 sacks and three interceptions. Offering good play diagnosis skills and physicality, he was named to three All-ACC teams (honorable mention in 2017 and 2018; second team in 2019).
Despite his success at Miami, however, the 5-foot-11, 235-pound defender did not hear his name called during the draft. His limitations — a lack of range limits his usage off the ball — may have played a role in that, just like his injury history: Pinckney missed some time each season due to minor ailments before suffering a hernia and labrum tear in his hip that required surgery and forced him to sit out the pre-draft process. The 22-year-old has remained on the open market ever since.
Now, he could get a chance with a team relatively light at the off-the-ball linebacker position. Ja’Whaun Bentley is the number one, but the depth behind him has not stood out so far: Brandon Copeland has seen inconsistent playing time on defense; Josh Uche is on injured reserve; Anfernee Jennings was a healthy scratch against the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 3; Cassh Maluia is exclusively a special teamer so far; Terez Hall is on the practice squad.
Pinckney would likely not be an impactful presence right away, but he could provide some developmental upside on the scout team if signed.