With the offseason workout program and mandatory minicamp in the books, 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 linebacker Harvey Langi.
Name: Harvey Langi
Position: Move linebacker
Jersey number: 48
Opening day age: 28
Size: 6-foot-2, 250 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2021 (2022 UFA)
What is his experience? An undrafted rookie free agent out of Brigham Young in 2017, Langi started his NFL career with the Patriots and promptly made their 53-man roster. His first season in the league saw him appear in one game before he and his wife, Cassidy, were involved in a car crash in mid-October. The accident forced him to end his rookie campaign on the reserve/non-football injury list. Even though Langi returned the following offseason, New England eventually let him go on cutdown day 2018.
After a month on the open market the second-year linebacker then decided to take his talents to one of the Patriots’ division rivals: the New York Jets. After spending his first season as a Jet on the practice squad, he went on to appear in 30 games for the organization over the next two years and established himself as a valuable role player on both defense and in the kicking game. Despite his success, however, he was not tendered as a restricted free agent earlier this year, paving the way for his return to New England.
What did his 2020 season look like? Having played almost two-thirds of kicking game snaps, Langi proved himself a core special teamer for the Jets in 2019. His role was not expected to change entering his third season in the system, but with the team’s linebacker depth being challenged due to a series of injuries it actually did: Langi did not just see regular action on special teams throughout the year, he also started to develop into a starting-level linebacker for the club in early November.
In total, the former rookie free agent was on the field for 513 of 1,139 defensive snaps. While his playing time share of 45 percent does not look impressive on the surface, his numbers over the second half of the year stand out: between a Week 9 game against the Patriots and him being placed on injured reserve because of a neck injury ahead of Week 16, Langi was on the field for 427 of 444 snaps (96.2%). While the circumstances contributed to this high a number, the fourth-year man justified this output with some solid performances.
Langi registered a combined 57 tackles: he had 28 takedowns in the running game and 29 versus the pass. He also finished the season with three total quarterback disruptions as well as a fumble recovery in Week 12 against the Miami Dolphins. While not all was perfect for Langi — quarterbacks went 28-for-35 when targeting him for 204 yards and a touchdown; he missed 10 tackles; he was flagged three times; he ended the year on IR — he looked serviceable while seeing the most extensive defensive action of his career.
His special teams contributions also are worth mentioning, of course. Ranking third on the team with a 54.5 playing time percentage, Langi participated in 242 of a possible 444 kicking game snaps. He was used on both kickoff and punt return units, kickoff and punt coverage squads, and on field goal and extra point blocking teams. He also had three tackles in the game’s third phase. Nevertheless, as was already mentioned above, the Jets decided against retaining Langi after the end of the 2020 season.
What is his projected role? Based on his previous usage in New England and how he was employed by the Jets, Langi’s role with the Patriots is expected to be two-fold. On the one hand, he will serve as a rotational depth option at both the off-the-ball and edge linebacker positions whose value lies primarily in the early-down game and versus the run. On the other hand, he will become a valuable contributor in the kicking game capable of playing on up to five different units.
What is his special teams value? After seeing only limited action over the first two years of his career, Langi has developed into a core special teams presence for the Jets in 2019 and 2020. In total, he therefore now has 524 kicking game snaps on his résumé while offering experience on five units: as noted above, New York trusted him on both return and coverage squads and also gave him snaps on place kick blocking teams — a flexible role he also played during his lone preseason as a Patriot.
Does he have positional versatility? Langi has experience at multiple positions along the defensive front seven and is thus deserving of the move linebacker label. He has seen plenty of playing time as an outside linebacker and on the defensive line over the last two years, but also was employed off the ball quite regularly as well. Between 2019 and 2020, the Jets used him as a box linebacker on 65.8 percent of his snaps, and on the edge on 29 percent.
What is his salary cap situation? After the Jets decided against tendering Langi as a restricted free agent, he entered the open market and was subsequently picked up by the Patriots. His old team gave him a one-year contract with a salary cap hit of $1.05 million: Langi received a $920,000 salary as well as a $75,000 signing bonus and $56,765 in additional bonuses. With the exception of his signing bonus the deal does not carry any guarantees.
What is his roster outlook? Langi’s story is unique, and he will get a chance to add to it this summer. However, it will not be easy: the Patriots made considerable investments at the linebacker position this offseason and also have team captains Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley as well as highly-drafted youngsters Chase Winovich, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings under contract. With only so many spots available, the 28-year-old will need to leave his mark on special teams and also look good whenever asked to play his move linebacker role. While making the 53-man team will be difficult, he could be a candidate for a veteran spot on the practice squad.