Even with the NFL moving further and further towards favoring the passing game compared to the run, the New England Patriots continued to keep a fullback on their roster. The latest player to fill that role was Jakob Johnson, who left the Patriots as an untendered restricted free agent last week.
With Johnson now a member of the Las Vegas Raiders, however, it appears his former club might be moving away from employing a fullback. The 27-year-old himself suggested as much in a recent interview with German news agency dpa.
“The Patriots have informed me that they will no longer need my services for next season simply because they will no longer have my position on the roster,” Johnson said.
Johnson originally arrived in New England via the NFL International Pathway Program out of his native Germany. Joining the club as a roster exempt 91st player in 2019, he made his way onto its practice squad and later was promoted to the active roster after James Develin suffered a season-ending neck injury — one that would turn out to also end his career.
With Develin retired, Johnson took over as New England’s fullback of choice. He held that role for two seasons, appearing in 38 games.
Johnson served primarily as a lead blocker in the running game and on special teams, but had limited value in other areas of the offensive attack. In three seasons as a Patriot, he touched the football just 13 times for 83 yards and a touchdown.
New England therefore decided not to use one of the three available tenders on the restricted free agent, allowing him to enter the open market on Wednesday. Shortly afterwards, he was picked up by the Raiders and thus reunited with former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
“The call came that there was interest,” Johnson told dpa. “And with Coach McDaniels and an offense I’ve played in, and a bunch of coaches who know me from the Patriots, that’s probably the best situation.”
Johnson’s former team, meanwhile, will apparently move on without using a traditional fullback. That does not necessarily mean the Patriots will no longer employ lead-blocking sets in their running game; however, they might just give those responsibilities to other players on the roster such as tight ends Jonnu Smith or Dalton Keene.