With training camp set to be kicked off later today, the New England Patriots are fully “on to 2021.”
The team currently has 91 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 are taking 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 offensive lineman Marcus Martin.
Name: Marcus Martin
Jersey number: 66
Opening day age: 27
Size: 6-foot-3, 330 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2021 (2022 UFA)
What is his experience? Coming off a three-year career at USC that saw him start a combined 33 games along the Trojans’ interior offensive line, Martin decided to skip his senior season to enter the NFL’s 2014 draft. The decision was a good one, as he heard his name called in the third round by the San Francisco 49ers. Martin spent three seasons with the organization, and saw somewhat regular playing time as a top backup optional: he appeared in 26 of a possible 48 games, starting 24.
After ending the 2016 season on injured reserve, however, the 49ers parted ways with Martin. Since then, he bounced around the league and has appeared in only three more games. He first joined the Cleveland Browns but after a year on the bench moved on to sign with the Dallas Cowboys, again not seeing any in-game action. Martin became a member of the Seattle Seahawks the following season; he was released in training camp and spent 2019 unsigned. He then tried his luck with the Detroit Lions and, eventually, the Patriots.
What did his 2020 season look like? Almost one year after the Seahawks let Martin go, he finally received another opportunity to prove his value at the NFL level. The journeyman was invited to a free agency workout in Detroit in late August, even though it did not initially lead to a contract. Two weeks into the season, however, he got his shot: the Lions signed him to a one-year practice squad deal. He would spend the next three months on the team’s developmental roster, even appearing in two games along the way.
Martin was elevated to Detroit’s active roster in Weeks 9 and 15 and saw the field against both the Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans: he played two special teams snaps in Minneapolis and three more in Nashville, being used as a member of the extra point protection team each time. Following both of the games he automatically reverted to the practice squad again. In late December, however, his tenure with the Lions came to an end and the organization decided to release him.
This time around, Martin spent not even a full week on the open market. The Patriots picked him up in late December, signing him to their active roster. While he was inactive for the game against the Buffalo Bills that very day, he did see the field one week later for the season finale against the New York Jets: Martin entered the field for one snap as a protector on an extra point play. His 2020 campaign therefore ended with a combined six snaps, one of them coming after his arrival in New England.
What is his projected role? Even though he was used exclusively on special teams last year, Martin is listed as an offensive lineman on the Patriots’ roster. If the team decides to employ him in that fashion, he will likely serve as a backup along the interior: he has experience at all three positions — left guard, center, right guard — having started games at the latter two spots over the course of his career with the 49ers. New England is set at all of those spots, but experienced depth is always important.
What is his special teams value? As his 2020 season clearly illustrated, teams have not shied away from using Martin in the kicking game. While his upside on return or coverage teams in virtually non-existence — a 6-foot-3, 330-pound frame will do that to you — he has seen time on field goal and extra point protection units in the past. In total, Martin has played 39 snaps in the game’s third phase over the course of his career.
Does he have positional versatility? Martin offers the versatility New England wants out of its interior offensive linemen; he can play all three positions and brings considerable experience at center and both guard spots to the table. On top of that he also was employed as a right tackle during his 2019 preseason with the Seahawks; he appeared in two exhibition games at the position and surrendered three quarterback disruptions as a pass protector on 66 combined snaps.
What is his salary cap situation? When Martin joined the Patriots late during the 2020 season, he effectively signed a two-games-plus-one-year deal with the organization. As part of this pact he will hit New England’s books with a salary cap number of $898,824 this season. Under the NFL’s Top-51 rule, however, only his fully-guaranteed $15,000 signing bonus proration is currently counting against the cap. The rest will join it if he makes the 53-man roster.
What is his roster outlook? After playing only one snap for the Patriots last season, Martin has plenty of room for improvement. However, his training camp performance will decide whether or not he will even get himself in a position to build on that foundation. In order to do that, he would have to beat out the other interior offensive lineman competing for the number five spot behind starters David Andrews, Shaq Mason and Michael Onwenu, as well as top backup Ted Karras. While the group — James Ferentz, Korey Cunningham, William Sherman, Alex Redmond, R.J Price — does not feature any world beaters, emerging victoriously will not be easy for Martin based on his last few seasons in the NFL.