There is a joke to be found in it somewhere: Giving his backup long snapper a four-year, $22 million contract extension is peak Bill Belichick.
Of course, Deatrich Wise Jr’s primary role with the New England Patriots is not that of providing depth at the long snapper position. A fourth-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, Wise Jr. is a valuable member of the team’s defensive line — one that has appeared in a combined 67 regular season and playoff games over his first four years in the league.
Of his almost 2,000 career snaps, the vast majority has come on the defensive side of the ball. Wise Jr. also has some special teams experience, though. While most prominently serving on the field goal and extra point blocking squads, he can also help out in another department: as noted above, he is the Patriots’ number two long snapper.
During Tuesday’s training camp practice, his snapping skills were on display during one particular field goal blocking drill.
So, how did that happen? The 27-year-old explained after the session.
“I’ve been practicing for quite a while. I’m still a little rusty now and then, but I’ll try it out,” he said. “It got noticed my first two years and they said to keep working on it, and they put me in one day to see how I did and I guess it was pretty solid.”
The Patriots having proper depth at every position is paramount, even when it comes to such unheralded spots as long snapper. A regular season game in Green Bay during the 2014 season served as a reminder of that: with Danny Aiken out due to a concussion, linebacker Rob Ninkovich took over snapping duties. He had to snap the ball eight times.
If something were to happen to current long snapper Joe Cardona, Wise Jr. would be the next man up.
“Joe’s in there but if everything goes sideways, then I’ll be next up,” he said on Tuesday.
Wise Jr. serving as the backup long snapper did not happen by chance. He has some experience having played the position — among others — during his time at Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas.
“I snapped in high school where I actually snapped,” he said. “In college, I didn’t snap as much — just playing around with it, never actually on a depth chart. But when I got here I wanted to pick it back up. So, I just kept snapping, just trying to be consistent.”
The Patriots obviously hope that they will never have to rely on Wise Jr. in an actual game, but if push comes to shove he wants to be ready. Obviously, though, being that does not come without its challenges: not only has he never snapped in an actual NFL game, he also has to find a way to get the tape off his hands and get them dry enough.
Still, the Patriots trust him to do all these things and enter the game if called upon. Maybe that is worth a few dollars out of that $22 million contract.