With the offseason workout program in the books and training camp being kicked off later this month, 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 August and 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 interior defensive lineman Christian Barmore.
Name: Christian Barmore
Position: Defensive tackle/Interior defensive line
Jersey number: TBD (Offseason No. 51)
Opening day age: 22
Size: 6-foot-4, 310 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2024 (2025 UFA)
What is his experience? Barmore entered the NFL when the Patriots traded up in the second round of this year’s draft to pick him with the 38th overall selection. The experience he gained at the pro level over the last few weeks is therefore limited. While the youngster did participate in some voluntary offseason workouts as well as mandatory minicamp, he naturally has not yet had the chance to prove himself in a game setting. That being said, he does have some high-quality football on his résumé from his time in college.
After taking a redshirt year in 2018, Barmore established himself as a disruptive presence along Alabama’s defensive line over his final two seasons of collegiate football. All in all, he appeared in 24 games — six of them as a starter — and put up some impressive numbers: Barmore finished his career with the Crimson Tide with 63 tackles, 10.0 sacks as well as three forced fumbles. He also earned All-SEC honors in both 2019 (all-freshman team) and 2020 (first team all-conference) and won a national championship.
What did his 2020 season look like? After already showing his immense talent in a part-time role as a redshirt freshman, Barmore was trusted with a bigger workload heading into his second full season in Nick Saban’s defensive system. Serving as a starter-level player at the defensive tackle position, he developed into a productive presence at the heart of the Alabama defensive line — and a player that put up strong numbers despite seeing his snaps increase from 22.4 per game in 2019 to 39.8 per game in 2020.
Barmore appeared in 12 of the Crimson Tide’s 13 games last year and was used primarily in pass rushing situations. In total, 324 of his 478 defensive snaps (67.8%) came against the pass and he finished the season as the team’s most disruptive player: Barmore led the team with 8.0 sacks, and also registered 4 quarterback hits as well as 27 additional hurries. Even when he was not getting home to put pressure on the opposing quarterback, he still made an impact as his four batted passes illustrate.
While he took some time to hit his stride in 2020 after missing the season opener with a knee strain, Barmore finished his final season at Alabama in strong fashion. Six of his sacks and two of his three forced fumbles came over the final six games of the year, with his most notable performance taking place in the National Championship Game against third-ranked Ohio State: Barmore had five tackles and a sack that night, and was eventually named the game’s Defensive MVP — one of multiple honors coming his way that year.
Not only was he crowned as the outstanding defender of Alabama’s 52-24 victory over the Buckeyes in the title game, he also was named second-team All-American and to the first All-SEC squad. Heading into the offseason with considerable momentum, Barmore decided against returning to school in 2021 and instead entered the NFL Draft as arguably the top defensive tackle in his class. He had to wait until Day 2 to be selected but did get a chance to continue his career under Saban’s former head coach, Bill Belichick.
What is his projected role? Barmore was not the only big investment made by the Patriots this offseason to bolster their defensive line: the team also re-signed Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Carl Davis, and added Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson and Montravius Adams in free agency. Given this depth in combination with Barmore’s relative inexperience, it would not be a surprise if his role in 2021 will be a rotational and package-specific one with a focus on the pass rush.
What is his special teams value? Given his size, Barmore’s value in the kicking game is comparatively limited. That being said, it would still not be a surprise to see him employed in the game’s third phase on a regular basis: the youngster has the disruptive power at the point of attack to become a factor on New England’s field goal and extra point blocking units. The Patriots have never shied away from using defensive tackles in this capacity, and Barmore will probably not be an exception.
Does he have positional versatility? Barmore may offer more against the pass than the run at this stage in his career, but he does bring a good amount of positional flexibility to the table. He served as a starting end in Alabama’s 3-4-based defense in 2020, and saw playing time all over the formation — filling every spot between the 4i and 0-technique positions, but also aligning over or outside the offensive tackle on occasion. Needless to say that he is a natural fit for New England’s multi-look front.
What is his salary cap situation? While one of two Patriots draft picks not yet officially signed — the other being third-rounder Ronnie Perkins — we already know what Barmore’s contract will look like due to the rookie wage scale and a projection by salary cap expert Miguel Benzan. The 21-year-old is expected to play on a salary of $660,000; combined with his $889,503 signing bonus proration he will have a cap number of $1.55 million this season.
What is his roster outlook? Given his status as a second-round draft pick Barmore is a lock to make the Patriots’ roster this season. The biggest question is how New England’s coaching staff will use him both in terms of snap numbers and role. As noted above, however, the projection is that he will be given a rotational role early on in his career with a focus on rushing the passer from various spots in the lineup. By Year 2, Barmore should then take on a more prominent role along the team’s interior defensive line. Either way, he offers intriguing upside for Bill Belichick and company to work with.