After missing each of his first two seasons in the NFL because of injury, New England Patriots offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste will attempt a comeback this year. According to Evan Lazar of CLNS Media, the former third-round draft pick is fully healthy again and “will be ready for training camp” this summer.
Cajuste originally joined the NFL as the 101st overall selection in the 2019 draft, but failed to make much of an impact for the Patriots early on in his career: after undergoing surgery on an injured quad during the pre-draft process, the West Virginia product had to open his rookie campaign on the non-football injury list. New England decided against activating him, forcing him to spend his first season as a pro on the sidelines.
“I’m excited to see what Yodny can do out there. He came in and he’s been hurt, but he’s been paying attention, been hands-on and he’s looking ready. Along with the other guys, we’re looking forward to seeing all of them compete,” said right guard Shaq Mason about Cajuste ahead of last year’s training camp.
While he did return to the field during training camp last summer, Cajuste found himself behind Jermaine Eluemunor and Michael Onwenu in the competition for the starting right tackle position. He did make the 53-man roster after cutdown day, but was moved to injured reserve shortly thereafter because of a knee injury.
Two years into his NFL career, Cajuste has therefore yet to appear in a regular season on preseason game for the Patriots.
Now healthy again, the 25-year-old will finally try to build on an impressive college career that allowed him to become a highly-regarded offensive tackle prospect two years ago. If not for an extensive injury history that only grew at the next level, however, Cajuste might have been drafted a lot earlier than the late third round: his ceiling as a powerful yet nimble blocker was intriguing, but so far he has not been able to come anywhere near it.
In 2021, Cajuste may now get another chance to live up to his talents. The Patriots’ offensive line, after all, could face some major turnover this offseason after being one of the best in the league last year.
Starting linemen Joe Thuney and David Andrews as well as backups Jermaine Eluemunor and James Ferentz are all headed for unrestricted free agency, while veteran Marcus Cannon is also no lock to return at his current $9.6 million price tag. Furthermore, Michael Onwenu is a candidate to move to the interior, meaning that the right tackle spot might become open for competition yet again.
At the moment, five players are under contract to possibly compete for it over the summer: Cajuste is joined by Onwenu and Cannon as well as Justin Herron and Korey Cunningham. Despite his status as the highest drafted player among the group, Cajuste’s last two seasons effectively make him a wildcard in this race.