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 continues with wide receiver Marvin Hall.
Name: Marvin Hall
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 14
Opening day age: 28
Size: 5-foot-10, 190 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2021 (2022 UFA)
What is his experience? Coming off a quiet career at the University of Washington — he touched the ball just 32 times for 432 yards and 1 touchdown in 42 games — Hall did not hear his name called during the 2016 NFL Draft. Instead, he entered the league via a free agent deal with the then-Oakland Raiders. Hall did not find a permanent home in Oakland, however, and was released on roster cutdown day. Thus began a pro-level career that it deserving of the “journeyman” label.
Over the next few years, Hall spent time with the Arizona Cardinals (2016), Atlanta Falcons (2017-18), Chicago Bears (2019), Detroit Lions (2019-20) and Cleveland Browns (2020) before eventually arriving in New England earlier this offseason. Along the way, he appeared in 45 games as a rotational wide receiver and caught 37 passes for 772 yards and 5 touchdowns. He also saw action on special teams, and is entering the 2021 season with a combined 32 punt and kickoff returns on his résumé.
What did his 2020 season look like? Even though he ended his 2019 campaign on injured reserve due to a foot injury, the Lions held onto hall entering 2020 — and not just that: they gave him a regular role within their offense as a package-specific third or fourth wide receiver with a focus on stretching the field from outside the formation. In this role, he appeared in the first 11 of Detroit’s games during the regular season and was on the field for 293 of a possible 735 offensive snaps up until that point (39.9%).
Hall may not have been the same big-play threat he was in a more limited role a year earlier — he averaged 37.3 yards on 7 receptions in 2019 — but he was still a comparatively reliable player in an offense struggling to consistently move the ball. In total, he caught 17 of 29 targets for 290 yards and a pair of receiving touchdowns. Hall’s contributions to the team also included 1 yard gained on his lone rushing attempt as well as a pair of kick returns that he ran back for a combined 13 yards.
Despite his occasional return, Hall played just 33 of 302 special teams snaps (10.9%) between Weeks 1 and 12. His impact on the kicking game was therefore minimal and, in combination with a regime change following the firing of head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn, might have contributed to the club’s somewhat surprising decision to part ways with him. Even with top wide receiver Kenny Golladay sidelined due to a nagging hip injury, the Lions waived Hall in early December.
Hall did not make it through the waiver wire unclaimed, though. Instead of hitting the open market, he was picked up by the Cleveland Browns. His stint with his new club was rather unspectacular, though: he appeared in one of six games — playing 91 percent of offensive snaps while the team was impacted by a recent Coronavirus outbreak — and caught a 12-yard pass. However, Hall was inactive for the Browns’ final three contests of the year, including both of their playoff games.
What is his projected role? Hall has played a variety of roles going back all the way to his college days, but the expectation is that he will serve as an outside wide receiver in New England’s scheme — filling a role similar to the one Damiere Byrd and Phillip Dorsett played in the past. They were used primarily as X-receivers who had the straight-line speed to challenge defenses deep. While both had their ups and downs, it would not be a surprise if the Patriots tried to employ Hall that way as well based on his previous usage in the NFL and his speed (he ran a 4.28-second 40-yard dash at his Pro Day in 2016).
What is his special teams value? Even though he saw significantly more snaps on offense than in the kicking game last year, Hall has considerable experience playing in the game’s third phase. He played on all four units — punt return and coverage, kickoff return and coverage — while with the Falcons, and also has seen some action as a returner: Hall has run back 29 kicks for an average of 22.1 yards per return, as well as 3 punts for 5.3 yards per attempt.
Does he have positional versatility? Even though Hall saw the majority of his NFL snaps split out wide, he does have some versatility to be moved around the formation and be used in non-traditional ways. Besides being able to align in the slot and help in the return game, he also has played from the backfield at times. In college, meanwhile, Hall attempted went 3-for-3 as a trick play passer, gaining 91 yards and scoring a pair of touchdowns. He has not thrown a pass in the NFL, but he is not entirely unfamiliar in such a situation.
What is his salary cap situation? The safe assumption is that Hall’s one-year contract with the Patriots will qualify for the veteran salary benefit. While he is expected to carry a base salary of $990,000 as well as a $25,000 signing bonus, his cap number will only be $875,000 — and that’s not all: Hall will count only $25,000 against New England’s salary cap during the offseason, with his $850,000 salary benefit not hitting the Patriots’ books until he make the 53-man roster.
What is his roster outlook? Even though he is coming off the best statistical season of his career, Hall is a long-shot to make the Patriots’ roster this year. Not only is he a late addition to the team’s wide receiver room, he also will have to contend against higher-upside players: with Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski projected to take four of the spots available, Hall will have to go up against players such as N’Keal Harry and Isaiah Zuber to earn one of the few remaining. The chances of him beating out both of them and the other wideouts currently under contract appear to be slim.