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 linebacker Terez Hall.
Name: Terez Hall
Position: Off-the-ball linebacker
Jersey number: 59
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6-foot-1, 230 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2021 (2022 ERFA)
What is his experience? Despite a successful career at the University of Missouri, Hall did not hear his name called during the 2019 draft and had to go through rookie free agency to join the NFL. He found a professional home in New England, spending the first two years of his career with the organization and appearing in eight games. Hall’s experience in the league is somewhat limited given that he spent most of it on the Patriots’ practice squad, but he does have plenty of football on his résumé stemming from his time at Missouri.
Over his four seasons at the school, Hall appeared in a combined 48 games — the final 26 of which as the team’s starting weak-side linebacker. In this role, he developed into a consistent presence for the Tigers and one of their best players during his junior and senior campaigns. After becoming a starter in 2017, he registered a combined 159 tackles of which 21.5 resulted in a loss of yardage for the offense. He furthermore notched six sacks, caught an interception and forced one fumble. Hall also was named a team captain in 2018.
What did his 2020 season look like? After spending his entire rookie campaign on the Patriots’ practice squad, Hall signed a reserve/futures contract with the organization after its early-January playoff exit. The deal did not guarantee him a spot on the roster, but it did allow him to compete for one in training camp. Unfortunately, however, Hall — like the rest of New England’s roster bubble players — did not have the benefit of preseason football to showcase his skills due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
With practice as the only on-field action over the course of the summer, Hall was unable to make New England’s 53-man roster come cutdown day. He was released in early September but, just like the previous year, found his way back onto the practice squad. The Missouri product went on to spend the first 10 weeks of the regular season on the developmental roster, being designated as a game-day elevatee on two occasions: Hall appeared in the Patriots’ mid-November contests against the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens.
After the Ravens game he was officially signed to the active roster, and remained there for the rest of the year. Along the way, he saw action in six additional games before being declared inactive in Week 17 due to an ankle injury. In total, Hall therefore played in eight contests while being on the field for 258 defensive snaps. While that number represents a playing time share of only 25.4 percent on the year, the second-year man was on the field for 43.7 percent of defensive snaps following his season debut in New York.
Hall was used primarily as an off-the-ball linebacker after being elevated to the active roster, seeing most of his action on early downs. He finished the season with 50 tackles — 29 of them versus the run — and also had three combined quarterback disruptions as well as a pair of pass breakups. While Hall had his ups and downs and showed only limited upside as an every-down player, he proved himself a hard-hitting presence in New England’s front seven and had the best season of his young career.
What is his projected role? Even though the Patriots used Hall in more of a move linebacker role during his rookie preseason, he was employed almost exclusively off the ball in 2020. Accordingly, the 24-year-old is projected to enter his third year in the system as a rotational depth option at the inside linebacker position — one that does have some versatility but appears to be best suited to serve in comparatively one-dimensional early-down role.
What is his special teams value? The Patriots regularly use their linebackers in the kicking game, and Hall also received a few snaps in the game’s third phase last season. Playing on both the punt and kickoff return units as well as the kickoff coverage squad, he was on the field for 29 of a possible 224 special teams snaps between Weeks 9 and 17 (12.9%). He should be expected to again receive opportunities in the kicking game moving forward, even though he may never turn into a core special teamer.
Does he have positional versatility? New England’s coaching staff apparently saw some potential in Hall as a move linebacker option during the 2019 preseason; he started as an off-the-ball defender but also aligned on the edge as the exhibition schedule went along. In 2020, however, 93.8 percent of his defensive snaps came in an off-the-ball role. Hall does have some versatile experience, but it seems as if New England sees him as more of an inside linebacker than a positionally flexible move option.
What is his salary cap situation? When Hall was promoted to the 53-man roster last November, he was essentially given a two-year deal that runs through the 2021 season. That second year will see him play on a $780,000 salary. Given that he did not receive a signing bonus or any other incentives or guarantees, that number also is his cap hit — one that does not qualify for Top-51 status, meaning that Hall will only count against the Patriots’ books if he makes the active roster, the practice squad, or an injury-related reserve list.
What is his roster outlook? Hall had his moments in 2020 but he finds himself in a difficult position this summer. Not only did the Patriots bolster their linebacker group by adding Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy in free agency, they also will get Dont’a Hightower back from the Covid-19 opt-out list and still have the likes of Ja’Whaun Bentley, Josh Uche, Chase Winovich and Anfernee Jennings on the roster. Furthermore, Hall missed some time during the offseason after undergoing ankle surgery earlier this year. Add it all up and you get a player seemingly facing an uphill climb to make the team.