With free agency and the draft firmly in the rear-view mirror and organized team activities underway, the New England Patriots are already fully “on to 2022.”
The team currently has 85 players under contract, but only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns in early September and ultimately make the active team. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots build on their 10-7 record.
Today, the series continues with veteran wide receiver/running back Ty Montgomery.
Name: Ty Montgomery
Position: Wide receiver/Running back/Kick returner
Jersey number: 14
Opening day age: 29
Size: 6-foot-0, 216 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2023 (2024 UFA)
What is his experience? Following a productive four-year career at Stanford, Montgomery entered the NFL as a third-round draft selection by the Green Bay Packers in 2015. Spending the first three-and-a-half seasons of his career in Green Bay, Montgomery proved himself a productive and versatile player. Regularly moving between wide receiver and running back, he appeared in 39 games for the team and amassed 309 touches for 1,844 yards and 12 touchdowns.
However, the Packers moved on from Montgomery during the 2018 regular season, trading him to the Baltimore Ravens. He appeared in seven games during his half-season in Baltimore, serving primarily as a depth piece on offense as well as a special teamer. After his stint as Raven, Montgomery spent one year with the New York Jets as well as two as a member of the New Orleans Saints. In total, he has seen action in a combined 83 regular season and playoff contests.
A versatile playmaker, Montgomery has gained a combined 2,479 yards in those 83 games and scored 12 touchdowns. He furthermore has run back 63 kickoffs over the course of his career for 1,380 yards and a 21.9-yard average. The majority of his production on both offense and in the return game has come during his time with the Packers, though; Montgomery has become more of a role player since leaving Green Bay.
What did his 2021 season look like? Even though he appeared in just six games during his first season as a Saint, the team opted to keep Montgomery around for its 2021 campaign. It re-signed the veteran via a one-year, $1.13 million deal that did not guarantee him a spot on New Orleans’ roster but at least gave him an opportunity to compete for one. Montgomery did just that, and eventually made his way onto the 53-man squad despite missing time in training camp due to an undisclosed injury.
Injuries in general were a problem for Montgomery in 2021 — just like they were the previous year. A hamstring ailment forced him to miss one game in November, with an apparent left pinky dislocation cutting his return in Week 10 short after a mere six snaps; the issue cost him the following week’s game as well. In December, he tested positive for Covid-19 and sat out a game on the league’s Coronavirus reserve list. Additionally, Montgomery was limited over the final two weeks of the season due to back issues.
When he was on the field, Montgomery was primarily employed as a role player on the offensive side of the ball. Seeing action in 14 of the Saints’ games, he played 300 of a possible 1,090 offensive snaps (27.5%) and finished with 31 touches for a combined 139 yards from scrimmage: he registered 44 yards on 15 carries as well as 95 more yards on his 16 receptions. Montgomery lined up mostly as a wide receiver, with only 27 percent of his total snaps coming out of a backfield alignment.
Furthermore, he served as a four-unit special teamer. Montgomery played 180 of the Saints’ kicking game snaps (of 469; 38.4%), and returned two kickoffs for a combined 59 yards and a 29.5-yard average. His most prominent impact in the game’s third phase, however, came as a coverage player: between his time on kickoff and punt coverage, he notched a combined 10 tackles — third most on the team. Montgomery played 113 coverage snaps compared to 67 on the return squads.
What is his projected role? Based on his usage through the years, the Patriots will likely employ Montgomery in three different areas: the running game, the passing game, and the return game. On the offensive side of the ball, Montgomery is neither an early-down runner nor a starter-level wideout; he is therefore expected to be used primarily in select passing sets rather than as a three-down player. On special teams, he offers some value both as a returner and on kick coverage.
Does he have positional versatility? Montgomery is not an elite wide receiver and also has no truly outstanding traits as a running back either. However, he has experience playing both positions and has performed at a solid level especially during his time with the Packers. Knowing how much New England appreciates its multi-faceted players, the team will likely find a way to facilitate touches for him in select situations and packages.
What is his special teams value? While Montgomery’s versatility on offense makes him an intriguing player, his abilities in the kicking game cannot be underestimated either. He is solid if unspectacular as a kickoff returner, and his positional flexibility shines through yet again. He was used as a gunner on punt coverage in the past, participated in kickoff coverage as well, and also blocked on punt returns. Even if not used as a kickoff returner, Montgomery can be a four-unit special teamer.
What is his salary cap situation? Montgomery joined the Patriots’ on a two-year, $3.6 million contract earlier this offseason and will carry a cap hit of $1.64 million in 2022 — currently the 34th highest on New England’s roster. The deal includes a $1.16 million salary, $150,000 signing bonus proration, $50,000 workout bonus and $280,000 worth of likely-to-be earned (LTBE) roster bonuses. Montgomery can earn an additional $360,000 if he hits his playing time incentives and NLTBE per-game bonuses.
How safe is his roster spot? The Patriots are deep at both running back and wide receiver, meaning that Montgomery is not guaranteed a spot on the 53-man roster come the regular season. The fact that his contract includes only $300,000 in total guarantees adds to this belief. That said, he offers experienced depth at two positions as well as on special teams and as such might just be able to stick around. Of course, his training camp and preseason performances need to justify such a move relative to the other talent under contract.
One-sentence projection: Montgomery will need to carve out a Brandon Bolden-like role as a four-unit special teamer and depth piece at either wideout or running back in order to make the team, but the numbers appear to work against him.