Few if any teams in the NFL are as successful at finding diamonds in the rough as the New England Patriots. Through the years, numerous of their core contributors have come from the ranks of undrafted free agents — from center David Andrews, defensive tackle Adam Butler and punter Ryan Allen, to cornerbacks Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson.
In 2021, however, the Patriots have been taking a different approach to rookie free agency. More than two weeks into the signing period, and with the first-year players’ minicamp already in the books, the team has signed just one unselected player: Michigan place kicker Quinn Nordin is the only undrafted rookie currently on New England’s roster.
While that does not mean the team won’t add any more UDFAs at one point this year, it is a reflection of how it feels about the talent that was available after the conclusion of the draft relative to the depth of its current team.
And so, Nordin remains as the lone representative of this year’s rookie free agent class on New England’s payroll. This relative inactivity has also led to the team receiving some unsurprisingly low grades during the recent media evaluation process.
Friend of Pats Pulpit Thor Nystrom, for example, ranked the Patriots last in the AFC in an analysis over at NBC Sports:
In my three years quantifying UDFA classes, the Patriots became the first organization to not sign a UDFA on Saturday night after the draft — and only the third team to sign a one-prospect UDFA class*. This is the organization that finished in the top-half of these rankings each of the last two years and recently found UDFAs David Andrews, Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones, J.C. Jackson, Randall Gay, Brandon King and Brandon Bolden. ...
Last Wednesday, New England brought in its aforementioned one-man UDFA class… drum-roll… Michigan K Quinn Nordin, my K6! Nordin connected on a not-good 72.4% of his FG attempts in college. He’s to compete with two-year starter Nick Folk and former NFL Draft bust Roberto Aguayo.
Bleacher Report’s Brent Sobleski, meanwhile, gave New England a “D” over at Bleacher Report — the lowest grade handed out:
The Patriots decided not to wade into the remaining talent pool. Instead, the team’s only undrafted signing happens to be competition for veteran kicker Nick Folk.
Michigan’s Quinn Nordin missed 16 career field-goal attempts in four seasons, including three of last year’s measly five attempts. He seemingly got worse with each campaign, though he did set a Michigan record with 14 fields goals of 40 or more yards.
If Nordin returns to his earlier form and beats out Folk, the Patriots smartly targeted the one undrafted individual they thought could help the team. If not, the team will have failed to pursue every avenue to improve the roster.
The Patriots generally received favorable grades for their performance on draft weekend. Fans overwhelmingly approved what the team did, while it also earned the sixth highest cumulative grade in a league-wide comparison. Pats Pulpit’s own Michael McDermott gave New England an ‘A’ for its haul between the first and seventh rounds of the draft.
When it comes to rookie free agents, however, the team seemingly looked at the pool of players available and went “nah, we’re good.” The unenthusiastic evaluations above should therefore not come as any surprise whatsoever.
But — who knows? — maybe Quinn Nordin can one day be added to the list of impact players above and force those grades to be revised at one point further down the line.