Coming off a 2021 season that saw them return to the playoffs but eventually come up short on wild card weekend, the New England Patriots have a long list of to-dos this offseason. One of its items is bringing back players who are scheduled to enter free agency.
There are quite a few of them: all in all, 18 players that were with New England last year are in need of a new contract. Among them is tight end Troy Fumagalli, who is an unrestricted free agent and will therefore hit the open market on March 16.
Name: Troy Fumagalli
Position: Tight end
Jersey number: 88
Opening day age: 27
Size: 6-foot-5, 250 pounds
Contract status: Unrestricted free agent
What is his experience? Fumagalli entered the 2018 NFL Draft coming off his best college season and as the reigning Offensive MVP at the Cotton Bowl, but he still had to wait until the fifth round to hear his name called. The Wisconsin product was picked up 156th overall by the Denver Broncos, with whom he would spent the majority of his time as a professional so far: with the exception of a short stint with the Houston Texans in 2020, he was a Bronco all the way before arriving in New England last offseason.
All in all, Fumagalli has appeared in 19 games at the pro level and caught 14 passes for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns. While his production and experience is comparatively limited given that he is already coming off his fourth NFL season, he does have plenty of competitive football on his résumé from his time at Wisconsin: in four seasons with the Badgers, Fumagalli saw action in 52 games and finished with 135 catches for a total of 1,627 receiving yards as well as seven touchdowns.
What did his 2021 season look like? Two months after spending big on Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, the Patriots brought another free agent tight end aboard — albeit with considerably less fanfare. The team signed Fumagalli to a one-year, $850,000 contract that did not include any guarantees. The deal’s structure already reflected his standing on the roster: Fumagalli was a bottom-of-the-depth-chart player and would have to put forward a solid training camp to make the roster or even practice squad. He did neither.
After appearing in one preseason game — playing 11 of 59 offensive snaps (19%) as well as 13 of 27 on special teams (48%) — Fumagalli was released during the second wave of roster cutdowns in mid-August to get the team below the 80-player threshold. He was actually waived with an injury designation, meaning that he would revert to season-ending injured reserve if unclaimed on waivers. That is exactly what happened: Fumagalli was not picked up by another club, eventually spending the entire season on New England’s IR.
Free agency preview
What is his contract history? Fumagalli signed a standard four-year contract after getting drafted by the Broncos, but he actually spent only one season under that pact. He later signed a series of practice squad deals in Houston and Denver, as well as one active roster deal worth $675,000. Fumagalli joined the Patriots on the aforementioned one-year contract; earning roughly half of it while on injured reserve his total contractual career earnings are now estimated at around $2 million by Over the Cap.
Which teams might be in the running? The Dallas Cowboys as well as virtually the entire AFC South — the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts — are all potentially in need of some help at the tight end position. However, neither of them will invest considerable resources in Troy Fumagalli. It seems more likely that the 27-year-old will have to spend some time on the open market again.
Why should he be expected back? Even with Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith atop the tight end depth chart, the Patriots might want to upgrade their depth at the position. Neither Devin Asiasi nor Dalton Keene have shown much during their first two seasons in the league, after all, Fumagalli is in a similar position but his experience both in New England’s system and elsewhere might prompt the team to bring him back.
Why should he be expected to leave? The Patriots have invested considerable resources in their tight end spot lately. They signed both Henry and Smith to multi-year deals one offseason after drafting Asiasi and Keene in the third round. Unless they are willing to give up on one or both of the two youngsters, any additions to the group will likely come through the draft rather than free agency — especially if the free agent in question has had marginal success during his initial training camp with the team.
What is his projected free agency outcome? Depth is always important, yes, but one has to wonder just how high up on the Patriots’ list of free agency priorities Troy Fumagalli will be. Realistically, he will not immediately be brought back but remain unsigned until the second wave of free agency is over. The team might be able and willing to bring him back at that point, but it is well set at the tight end position regardless of his presence in the room.
Will the Patriots re-sign Troy Fumagalli?
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