After drafting eight players to their team over the weekend and parting ways with quarterback Jake Dolegala, the New England Patriots were left with just six open spots on their offseason roster. On Monday, however, they gained another one without having to make any cuts or other moves.
As was announced via the league’s official transactions wire, the NFL granted fullback Jakob Johnson a roster exemption based on his status as an International Player.
The league defines such players as non-US citizens who are required to secure either a visa or other immigration-related approval to play for an NFL team. Johnson, who was born in Germany and joined the league via its International Pathway Program qualifies for this status. As a result, the Patriots now officially have 83 players counting against the current 90-man roster limit.
The 26-year-old arrived in New England back in 2019 via the Pathway Program, and was able to defy the odds and earn a regular practice squad spot after preseason. He later was even promoted to the active roster after James Develin suffered a season-ending neck injury. Even though Johnson appeared in just four games as a rookie before being sent to injured reserve himself, he positioned himself well to compete for the fullback job in Year 2.
With Develin retired and offseason acquisition Danny Vitale opting out, Johnson made the Patriots’ roster as the lone fullback. He went on to play in all 16 games on offense and special teams, and finished with eight catches for 35 yards and a touchdown — all while serving as the lead blocker on New England’s rushing offense.
The Patriots retained Johnson via the exclusive-rights free agency tender earlier this offseason, giving him another chance to earn a spot on the team. Until then, however, he will not count against the roster due to the exemption.
Despite this status, Johnson will be able to participate in all team activities over the offseason and throughout training camp. He therefore can be seen as a 91st player available for New England until roster cutdown day in September.
His status as an International Player does not just allow Johnson to be carried with a roster exemption, but also to serve on a practice squad for three additional seasons after his status is lifted.
In total, the NFL awarded seven roster exemptions on Monday.