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 long snapper Brian Khoury.
Name: Brian Khoury
Position: Long snapper
Jersey number: 46w
Opening day age: 29
Size: 6-foot-3, 240 pounds
Contract status: TBD
What is his experience? Khoury first arrived in the NFL as an undrafted rookie signing by the Baltimore Ravens earlier this year. He spent only two months in Baltimore, however, before getting released again and remaining on the open market until New England picked him up this week. But while his experience in the league is therefore limited, Khoury has plenty of football on his career résumé — including stints at Division-III school Carnegie Mellon and with the DC Defenders of the short-lived XFL.
Originally a hockey player, Khoury transitioned to football upon arriving at Carnegie Mellon. Spending four years at the school, he appeared in 39 games for the Tartans as a defensive end and registered some impressive numbers: he notched 29.5 sacks, forced 4 fumbles with 3 recoveries, and also blocked three kicks. The two-time UAA Defensive Player of the Year did not hear his name called during the 2017 draft, however, and decided to change positions to become a long snapper.
Khoury did not initially get a chance in the NFL, but he tried out for the CFL and eventually spent time with the San Diego Strike Force of the Indoor Football League (appearing in two games). He later also participated in the Spring League before eventually being selected as a defensive end/long snapper in the inaugural XFL Draft in 2019. Khoury played five games in the league before it folded — making him a free agent again that found his next job when the aforementioned Ravens brought him aboard.
What did his 2020 season look like? After being selected in open phase of the XFL Draft in October 2019, Khoury entered the 2020 season under a professional contract with the DC Defenders. Playing alongside ex-Patriots Nick Brossette, Scooby Wright and Anthony Johnson, the long snapper went on to appear in all five of the team’s games before the league shut down operations amidst the Coronavirus pandemic. Before that happened, however, Khoury saw regular action.
While he did not snap the football for extra point kicks — the XFL had no point-after tries — Khoury still finished the season with a combined 33 snaps. He snapped the football 12 times on Tyler Rausa field goal attempts as well as 21 times on Hunter Niswander punts. With Khoury snapping the ball to them, Rausa went 9-for-12 on field goal attempts while Niswander was voted to the midseason All-XFL team after averaging 44.6 yards per punt. Khoury also registered a pair of tackles in the punt coverage game.
However, his season came to an abrupt end when the XFL canceled the remaining five games of it season due to Covid-19 and later filed for bankruptcy. A free agent again, Khoury received little interest and remained without a team throughout the rest of the 2020 season. He signed his next pro-level contract in March 2021, joining the Ravens for two months.
What is his projected role? While Khoury has experience as a defensive lineman as well, his projected role in New England is pretty straight forward: he will replace long snapper Joe Cardona, who left Sunday’s training camp practice with an undisclosed injury, until the veteran is able to return to the field again. In this role, Khoury will snap the football both to place kickers Nick Folk and Quinn Nordin, as well as to punter Jake Bailey.
What is his special teams value? At least for now, Khoury’s special teams value will lie in his role as a long snapper on three of the Patriots’ kicking teams: he will serve on the punt coverage unit in a dual role as snapper and defender — one he also played in the XFL — and also be a vital part of New England’s field goal and extra point operations. While it remains to be seen how much actual in-game action he will see, Khoury will be used in all of those phases.
Does he have positional versatility? In theory, the 29-year-old brings considerable versatility to the table. Not only does he have experience snapping the football, he also was a productive defender during his four-year college career at Carnegie Mellon. As noted above, he registered 29.5 sacks in 39 games. On top of it all, he also has one 11-yard kickoff return on his résumé. Joining the Patriots, however, his job will be to long snap the football and help on punt coverage.
What is his salary cap situation? While no details of Khoury’s contract have been released just yet, the expectation is that he will spend the 2021 season on a $660,000 salary with no guarantees. His deal will therefore not qualify for the NFL’s Top-51 rule. Accordingly, he will not count against the Patriots’ salary cap until he remains on their 53-man roster through cutdown day — something that is only expected to happen if Cardona is out until the start of the regular season.
What is his roster outlook? Khoury has had an interesting career so far, and there is a realistic chance he will see in-game action at the NFL level this week: New England will play its preseason opener against the Washington Football Team on Thursday. Once Joe Cardona returns from whatever ailment is bothering him at the moment, however, it seems likely that Khoury will get the axe again: teams generally keep only one long snapper signed to their active rosters or practice squads; the 2021 Patriots will not be an exception.