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Patriots 2022 roster breakdown: Will the young cornerbacks push Terrance Mitchell off the roster?

Related: Patriots roster breakdown: Rhamondre Stevenson might play an even bigger role in 2022

NFL: JUN 08 New England Patriots Minicamp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the offseason workout program in the rear-view mirror, the New England Patriots are already fully “on to 2022.”

The team currently has 87 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 cornerback Terrance Mitchell.

Hard facts

Name: Terrance Mitchell

Position: Cornerback

Jersey number: 39

Opening day age: 30

Size: 5-foot-11, 190 pounds

Contract status: Under contract through 2022 (2023 UFA)


What is his experience? A seventh-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2014, Mitchell spent time with five different organizations over the course of his eight-year career before joining the Patriots. Nonetheless, he is not quite deserving of the “journeyman” label. After all, he became a starter-level defender for three of those teams: after starting just two games over the first three seasons of his career in Dallas, Chicago and Houston, Mitchell was given regular snaps over the course of his two-year stint with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Mitchell started 12 games for the club, registering four interceptions along the way. His performance with the Chiefs led to him signing a three-year, $12 million contract with the Cleveland Browns in 2018. Spending three seasons in Cleveland, Mitchell added 29 more starts to his résumé and even led the team in defensive playing time during in 2020. The Oregon product also caught a pair of interceptions and forced five fumbles before leaving the Browns in 2021 to rejoin the Houston Texans on a two-year deal.

Mitchell ended up spending just one season in Houston, adding 14 more in-game appearances to his career totals. All in all, the 30-year-old has therefore seen action in 87 NFL games, including 54 as a starter. Between his 2014 and 2021 seasons, he was able to haul in eight interceptions, force nine fumbles, recover one, and also register a sack. Along the way, he was on the field for almost 4,000 snaps between his contributions on defense and in the kicking game.

What did his 2021 season look like? After his contract with the Browns expired in March 2021, Mitchell returned to an organization that already rostered him five years earlier: he signed a two-year, $6.5 million with the Texans. Given that the team guaranteed his entire $2.5 million salary for the upcoming 2021 campaign, he was a lock to make Houston’s roster and a realistic candidate to earn himself a regular role in the team’s defensive backfield — something he was very much able to do right away.

Serving as one of Houston’s starting outside cornerbacks, Mitchell took the field in 14 of 17 games and ended up playing 796 of a possible 1,148 defensive snaps. His playing time share of 69.3 percent ranked second on the team behind only fellow cornerback Desmond King (80.8%), despite Mitchell missing some time due to medical issues: he suffered a concussion in Week 2 against his old team, the Browns, that kept him out the following week as well; additionally, he missed 10 days and two games on the Covid-19 reserve list.

When he was healthy, he was a steady if inconsistent presence on a defensive unit that had a disappointing season overall. During his 14 games, Mitchell allowed opposing quarterbacks to go 45-for-76 when targeting him for a completion rate of 59.2 percent as well as 556 yards and five touchdowns. Even though he also had an interception in Week 11 against the Tennessee Titans, he still gave up a defensive passer rating of 98.4 — all while also missing 11.8 percent of his tackle attempts (8 of 68).

Not all was bad for the veteran defender, though. Besides his INT versus Tennessee, he also led the team with 10 pass breakups and ranked first on the Houston defense with three forced fumbles. Furthermore, he was able to somewhat limit yards after the catch despite his inconsistent tackling: opposing pass catchers gained an average of 3.2 additional yards when making plays against Mitchell’s coverage. Nonetheless, the Texans decided to release their former starting cornerback in March 2022.

2022 preview

What is his projected role? Mitchell spent the majority of his career as a perimeter cornerback, and based on his usage in organized team activities and mandatory minicamp this role is not expected to change with his new team. The Patriots will have him align outside the formation on the majority of his snaps, either as a starter-level defender or an experienced package-specific depth option. Where he ends up will depend on his training camp performance relative to the other outside CBs on the current roster.

Does he have positional versatility? Mitchell aligned predominately on the outside during his eight seasons in the NFL, including on 92.5 percent of his defensive snaps in 2021. That said, he has moved around the secondary a bit throughout the years and even started off as a slot cornerback who occasionally moved there later in his career as well. That said, his value clearly lies on the defensive perimeter. The Patriots suddenly turning him into a player he has never really been should not be expected.

What is his special teams value? Only a fraction of Mitchell’s almost 4,000 career snaps thus far has come in the kicking game. He does have some experience in the game’s third phase, though, having played on the punt return and kick coverage teams in both Cleveland and Houston. Mitchell furthermore has played a handful of snaps on the field goal and extra point blocking teams. Realistically, though, his special teams opportunities as a Patriot will be limited — especially if he earns a big defensive role.

What is his salary cap situation? The first reports of Mitchell joining the Patriots in free agency had his deal as a one-year, $3 million pact. However, in order to earn its full value he would have to earn every roster bonus and playing time incentive within that contract. Accordingly, his deal is classified as a one-year, $1.75 million pact that can be broken down into a $1.21 million million salary (incl. $150,000 guaranteed), a $200,000 signing bonus proration, and $280,000 worth of likely-to-be-earned roster bonuses. His cap number is $1.69 million.

How safe is his roster spot? The details of Mitchell’s one-year contract with the Patriots show that he is no lock to make the team and instead will have to fight for his spot on the roster in training camp and preseason. If the 30-year-old can show the form he displayed at times in Cleveland and Kansas City, he might just make the cut. If not, however, the team would likely not hesitate to release him in favor of the younger cornerbacks currently on the roster such as Jack Jones, Myles Bryant, Joejuan Williams or Shaun Wade.

One-sentence projection: Despite seeing starter-level reps during the offseason, Mitchell will leave training camp as CB4 on the outside and get released — albeit possibly re-signed as well — as part of cutdown-day roster gymnastics.