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Patriots 2021 roster breakdown: Lawrence Guy helps lead New England’s defensive line into the future

Related: Patriots roster breakdown: DT Davon Godchaux

New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

With training camp and preseason underway, the New England Patriots are fully “on to 2021.”

The team currently has 86 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 defensive tackle Lawrence Guy.

Hard facts

Name: Lawrence Guy

Position: Defensive tackle/Interior defensive line

Jersey number: 93

Opening day age: 31

Size: 6-foot-4, 315 pounds

Contract status: Under contract through 2024 (2025 UFA)

Experience

What is his experience? After starting 31 games at Arizona State, Guy entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2011. However, he never actually appeared in a game for the team: he spent his rookie season on injured reserve after suffering a concussion in training camp, and started 2012 on the Packers’ practice squad before being signed off of it by the Indianapolis Colts. Guy went on to appear in 12 games for the Colts before getting released the following season.

The then-San Diego Chargers claimed him off the waiver wire, and he went on to appear in 15 games for them between the 2013 and the 2014 seasons. That said, his tenure in San Diego was also not meant to last: the team parted ways with him early during his second year, allowing the Baltimore Ravens to claim him in September 2014. From that point on, Guy’s career found some stability as he spent two-and-a-half seasons in Baltimore and appeared in a combined 45 regular season and postseason games.

In 2017, he took the next step in his development. Since signing a four-year, $14.4 million free agency contract with the Patriots, Guy played in 62 regular season contests and seven playoff games for the team. A core member of New England’s defense, he earned a Super Bowl ring to cap the 2018 season and also was named to the organization’s Team of the 2010s. All in all, he is entering the open market again with an impressive résumé to look back on that includes 141 total in-game appearances and one championship.

What did his 2020 season look like? Coming off another impressive season, Guy was a lock to return to the Patriots’ interior defensive line in 2020 and to play a vital role within the team’s defensive front seven both against the run and the pass. He did just that. As such, he delivered another quality season — all while seeing a heavy workload again and serving as a top-four player at the defensive tackle position alongside Adam Butler, Deatrich Wise Jr. and, to a lesser degree, Byron Cowart.

In this role, Guy was on the field for 14 of the Patriots’ 16 games last season. While he did miss two games because of a nagging shoulder injury — Week 9 at the New York Jets, Week 16 against the Buffalo Bills — the veteran again was a reliable presence up front for the team: he finished the year with a playing time share of 49.5 percent after being on the field for 503 of a possible 1,017 defensive snaps. Only fellow interior defensive lineman Wise Jr, who played 55.6 percent of snaps, saw more action at the position.

Despite his comparatively heavy exposure, Guy again played some quality football while also serving as a team captain for the first time in his career. In total, he registered 51 tackles in the running game, had 18 combined quarterback pressures — including a pair of sacks — and also registered a fumble recovery. While he likely would have benefitted from better talent around him especially at the nose position that remained very much vacant throughout the year, Guy proved his value to New England’s defense once again.

While that remained the same compared to his first three years since joining the team, there was one change for Guy: his special teams opportunities were limited. After being on the field for 37.3 percent of kicking game snaps in 2019, the Patriots used him on just 14.9 percent in 2020 (59 of 397). His two-game absence contributed to the lower output, but so probably did the shoulder injury that bothered him for much of the season. It looks as if New England wanted to preserve him as best as possible all year.

2021 preview

What is his projected role? When Guy arrived in New England during the 2017 offseason, he was used as a rotational defensive tackle who offered upside as a big-bodied two-gap defensive tackle. In this role, he has since played more than half of the team’s cumulative defensive snaps while moving between numerous spots along the line — a role he is also projected to play in 2021. Guy can therefore be considered a starting member of the Patriots’ defense, who will help against the pass but especially the run.

What is his special teams value? As noted above, the 31-year-old has seen regular action in the kicking game over the course of his career: ever since he arrived in Baltimore in 2014, he was used extensively on special teams as well. Even though his usage changed a bit last season, the expectation is that Guy will still continue to be used in the game’s third phase in 2021 as well. He is projected to see action on New England’s punt return unit as well as the field goal and extra point kicking and blocking squads.

Does he have positional versatility? While Guy may not be a player capable of playing all defensive line techniques at the same high level, he has shown some solid versatility within his position on the interior. No matter if he is used in a nose alignment, as a 3-4 end or as a 4-3 defensive tackle, Guy has proven himself capable of being a consistent contributor. He has furthermore repeatedly shown up as a disruptor and pocket pusher in the passing game, and a stoutly anchored gap-filler against the run.

What is his salary cap situation? Guy returned to the Patriots on a four-year contract worth a total of $11.4 million — a deal reflective of his age, but still one that has “bargain” written all over it given his potential role in 2021. After all, he will hit the team’s books with a salary cap number of only $1.68 million this year: Guy carries a $1.08 million base salary and $250,000 signing bonus proration that are both guarantee, as well as $350,000 worth of roster bonuses considered likely to be earned.

What is his roster outlook? While Guy’s outlook beyond the 2021 season is somewhat uncertain despite him remaining under contract, he is a lock to make the roster this year. Not only did he sign a new deal with the Patriots just five months ago, he also is still a valuable member of the team’s defensive tackle rotation as well as a leader in the locker room. As such, he will help lead New England’s defensive line into the future — whether or not he will be a part of it or not.