With the third phase of voluntary offseason workouts underway, the New England Patriots are already fully “on to 2021.”
The team currently has 90 players under contract, but only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns in early September and ultimately make the active team. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots bounce back from what was a disappointing 7-9 season last year.
Today, the series kicks continues with place kicker Roberto Aguayo.
Name: Roberto Aguayo
Position: Place kicker
Jersey number: TBD
Opening day age: 27
Size: 6-foot-0, 205 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2021 (2022 ERFA)
What is his experience? Coming off a successful college career at Florida State, Aguayo entered the NFL as a second-round draft choice by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2016 — the first kicker picked that high since 2005. Despite his draft pedigree, however, he was slow to adapt to playing at the pro level. Tampa Bay decided to bring some competition in the following offseason, signing Nick Folk in free agency. Aguayo eventually lost his job to the veteran, and was released during the 2017 preseason.
Aguayo went on to spend time with the Chicago Bears and Carolina Panthers later that year, as well as the Los Angeles Chargers during the 2018 preseason. He also tried to make it into the XFL but failed to get himself drafted. He did eventually return to the NFL in 2020 via a practice squad contract with the Patriots, but with him not appearing in any contests his in-game statistics still read the same as they did after his rookie season in 2016: 16 games, 22-for-31 on field goals (71%), 32-for-34 on point-after tries (94.1%).
What did his 2020 season look like? After having spent both the 2018 and the 2019 seasons out of the league, Aguayo decided to take his talents to the reincarnated XFL. Even though he entered its inaugural draft in October 2019, he was not among the 560 players selected and therefore not part of any team’s roster when the league was officially kicked off in February 2020. Any hopes of him maybe joining the XFL at a later point went up in flames when the Coronavirus pandemic forced its season to be canceled in April.
The former second-round draft pick continued to create no noticeable market through the NFL’s training camp and early regular season, but was invited for a free agent workout by the Green Bay Packers in late November. Nothing came of the session, but it would not remain the only one for Aguayo during the 2020 season: he also was invited for a workout by the Patriots in December. He apparently left a more positive impression in New England than Green Bay, and signed a practice squad deal five days later.
Aguayo spent only two weeks of the Patriots’ developmental roster before the end of their season, but he did enough behind the scenes to be given a reserve/futures contract in January. Despite being one of three place kickers under contact by the end of the year alongside his former Buccaneers teammate (and heir) Nick Folk and rookie Justin Rohrwasser, New England’s decision makers wanted to continue working with him heading into the 2021 offseason.
What is his projected role? The Patriots have three kickers under contract at the moment — Aguayo, Nick Folk, Quinn Nordin — and only one of them will be able to make the 53-man roster. While Folk is the favorite to win this competition, Aguayo could either upset the incumbent or maybe again carve out a spot as an emergency option on the practice squad. Either way, his job description will be pretty straight forward: kick field goals, extra points, and maybe also off.
What is his special teams value? Aguayo has experience in all three phases of place kicking. During his lone season as a featured kicker with the Buccaneers in 2016, he attempted 31 field goals as well as 34 extra points, and also did 79 kickoffs. However, the 27-year-old has not gotten any in-game opportunities to add to those numbers over the last four seasons. How his special teams value is seen by the Patriots’ coaches will therefore determine his outlook for the 2021 season.
Does he have positional versatility? The nature of the kicker position is one of limited versatility. While Aguayo can, as noted above, kick field goals, extra points and kickoffs, he brings virtually nothing more to the table. He could probably serve as an emergency punter, though, if push came to shove. For what it is worth — admittedly very little in an NFL context — Aguayo was also ranked as a punter coming out of high school.
What is his salary cap situation? When their 2020 season came to an end, Aguayo was among 10 of the Patriots’ practice squad members to sign reserve/futures deals. This one-year contract will allow him to compete for a roster or practice squad spot again, even though it also pays him a minimum-level salary: Aguayo will get $780,000, which means that he is currently not counting against New England’s salary cap under the NFL’s Top-51 rule.
What is his roster outlook? Considering Nick Folk’s contract structure and success over the last one-and-a-half seasons, it would be a surprise if Aguayo is able to seriously challenge his standing on the team this summer. That said, anything can happen in the NFL and the Patriots apparently still see something in him after keeping him on the roster instead of second-year man Justin Rohrwasser. Realistically, though, Aguayo has only an outside chance of making the 53-man roster. As noted above, however, he could serve as a second layer of depth on the practice squad again.