With training camp underway, 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 quarterback Jake Dolegala.
Name: Jake Dolegala
Jersey number: 9w
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6-foot-7, 240 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2021 (2022 ERFA)
What is his experience? Dolegala originally arrived in the NFL as an undrafted free agency signing by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2019. Despite his draft status, or lack thereof, he was able to carve out a role on the team’s active roster as a rookie. Serving as the team’s third quarterback, his only in-game action in his first year as a pro came during the preseason schedule: appearing in two exhibition games last year, he completed 37 of 53 pass attempts for 347 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Dolegala received no in-game action during his second season in the NFL, but he still offers plenty of experience stemming from his time at Central Connecticut State. During his four years at the school, he started 44 contests and finished with some solid albeit unspectacular numbers: Dolegala completed 654 of 1,136 pass attempts for a completion rate of 57.6 percent as well as 8,129 yards. The program’s all-time passing yardage leader also posted a 48-to-29 touchdown-to-interception-rate.
What did his 2020 season look like? Dolegala did not see any regular season snaps during his first year in the NFL, and his second campaign did not go any better. It started with Cincinnati selecting Joe Burrow first overall in the draft, meaning that the second-year man was left to compete for a backup spot over the course of training camp. Dolegala was unable to win that battle and eventually was let go by the Bengals as part of their final roster cutdowns in early September.
Despite clearing waivers he was not retained via the practice squad, entering the open market. Dolegala did receive some interest as a free agent, though. The Las Vegas Raiders brought him in for a workout, even though they did not sign him. Shortly afterwards, he visited the Patriots in hopes of landing a new club. This time, he had more success: New England signed him to its practice squad in mid-September and he would go on to stay with the organization for the majority of the regular season.
With the exception fo a four-day stint in November, Dolegala spent the entire remainder of his second year in the NFL on the Patriots’ developmental roster. He was not elevated to the game-day squad even once, however, meaning that he saw no in-game action yet again. Nonetheless, New England decided to retain Dolegala via a reserve/futures contract after its season ended in early January. He remained with the club until late April, and later joined the Green Bay Packers for not even two months.
What is his projected role? Dolegala has starting experience from his time in college, backup experience from his time in Cleveland, and practice squad experience from his first season in New England. However, based on the composition of the Patriots’ current quarterback room he appears to have “camp arm” written all over him. As such, he will see most of his time during training camp and preseason playing with the last layer of the depth chart while possibly competing for the third QB spot behind Cam Newton and Mac Jones.
What is his special teams value? As is the case with most quarterbacks, Dolegala’s special teams value is rather limited based simply on his listed position. That being said, he could help out as an emergency holder behind punter Jake Bailey on field goal and extra point attempts — a role that was played by Tom Brady and Matt Cassel during their times in New England. Other than that, however, he has virtually no value in the kicking game.
Does he have positional versatility? Dolegala is a quarterback and will be used as such by the Patriots, but he does have some flexibility in terms of his skillset. He was a productive dual-threat quarterback in college, rushing for a combined 486 yards and 10 touchdowns during his final two seasons at Central Connecticut State. During his lone two preseason games at the NFL level, however, he failed to build on this success: Dolegala attempted only three rushes for a combined 12 yards.
What is his salary cap situation? When the Patriots claimed Dolegala off waivers on Wednesday, they took on the contract he had signed with the Packers in June. As such, he will be playing on a one-year deal with a salary of $780,000 and no guarantees. Given that this number does not qualify his deal for Top-51 status, Dolegala is currently not counting against New England’s salary cap. He will only do so if he makes the active roster.
What is his roster outlook? Dolegala has some experience in the system stemming from his 2020 season with the Patriots, but his addition on the first day of training camp seems to be more related to Jarrett Stidham’s injury status than anything else. With Stidham possibly out for the foreseeable future, New England was in need of an additional quarterback to give the team flexibility with its practice setups. While Dolegala could surprise and surpass the injured Stidham and veteran Brian Hoyer on the depth chart, it seems more likely that he will get cut at the end of the summer. That said, a good camp and preseason performance could help him stick around via the practice squad again.