With mandatory minicamp 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 third-year wide receiver Malcolm Perry.
Name: Malcolm Perry
Position: Wide receiver/Return specialist
Jersey number: 19
Opening day age: 25
Size: 5-foot-10, 190 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2022 (2023 RFA)
What is his experience? Before joining the NFL as a seventh-round draft selection by the Miami Dolphins in 2020, Perry spent his four-year college career at Navy. Playing a dual role as quarterback and slot back in the team’s triple option offense, he was a massively productive player. Perry appeared in 41 games for the Midshipmen and carried or received the football 636 times for 4,829 yards and 43 touchdowns. For comparison, he went 58-for-113 as a passer for 1,311 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Despite his immense statistical output, Perry had to wait until the final round of the 2020 draft to hear his name called. Since then, he spent time with three different teams — the Dolphins, Patriots and New Orleans Saints — while seeing action in nine games for a combined 163 snaps between offense and special teams. In total, he has nine receptions and three rushing attempts on his pro-level résumé, resulting in a total output of 97 yards and one touchdown; Perry also returned one punt for 12 yards.
What did his 2021 season look like? Coming off a rookie season that saw him play only a small role within the Miami offense, Perry was no lock to make the team’s roster in 2021. He was given plenty of opportunities to prove himself over the course of the summer, though, and was on the field for 122 of a possible 201 offensive snaps during the Dolphins’ three preseason games (60.7%). Aligning both in the slot and on the outside of the formation, the sophomore led the team in receptions (6) and yards (110).
Perry additionally averaged 21.0 yards on his four kickoff returns and 8.5 on six punt-runbacks, but it was not enough to survive roster cutdown day: Miami decided to waive Perry in late August with the hopes of stashing him onto its practice squad. However, he did not make it through the waiver wire and was instead claimed by the Patriots. He joined the team’s 53-man roster for the regular season opener — coincidentally versus the Dolphins — but was inactive because of a foot injury.
The issue eventually forced Perry to injured reserve in Week 2; two months later, he was released off the reserve list. He joined the Saints’ practice squad shortly thereafter but after a month in New Orleans was let go again — this time not finding a new home just as quickly: Perry remained unsigned until returning to New England via a reserve/futures contract in mid-January. At that point, the Patriots had been eliminated from the playoffs meaning that Perry’s second NFL season ended without him appearing in a game.
What is his projected role? Perry showed that he can be productive as a quarterback and slot back against AAC competition, but the expectation is that New England will use him in a more traditional role: he will compete for a job as a slot receiver, who also offers some experience on the outside or playing from the backfield. Accordingly, Perry projects as a slot/Z-hybrid as well as a potential return man.
Does he have positional versatility? Yes, indeed. Perry moved between alignments during his time at Navy and was also used in multiple spots while with the Dolphins between 2020 and the 2021 preseason; the team employed him as a slot receiver for a majority of his snaps but also did not shy away from splitting him out wide, having him play in-line or moving to the backfield; he even played five quarterback snaps back in 2020. It would not be a surprise to see New England use him as a do-it-all player within its offense as well.
What is his special teams value? Perry does have some experience in the game’s third phase, but it is a bit limited. He returned 20 kickoffs for an average of 24.6 yards during his college career and also ran back one punt for 12 yards as a rookie with the Dolphins. He saw more extensive playing time in the kicking game during the 2021 preseason — playing on both return teams and the kickoff coverage squad — but has plenty of room for growth in this area.
What is his salary cap situation? The Patriots re-signed Perry to a reserve/futures contract in January, which essentially serves as a one-year contract. As part of this pact, he will hit New England’s books with a salary cap number of $880,000 consisting of an $825,000 salary and a $55,000 signing bonus. Perry’s contract is not qualifying for top-51 status at the moment, however, meaning that he is currently not counting against the Patriots’ cap; he will only officially hit the team’s books if on the roster or practice squad heading into the regular season.
How safe is his roster spot? Perry has some interesting skills to work with, and his versatility is enticing. Given the Patriots’ depth at wide receiver, however, he will likely face an uphill climb to make the team: New England has several roster locks at the position, including fellow interior options Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers and, possibly, Nelson Agholor. The 25-year-old would therefore need a strong outing over the summer — both on offense and special teams — to keep his spot on the team.
One-sentence projection: A realistic practice squad candidate yet again, Perry will receive some opportunities over the summer but eventually come up short on roster cutdown day.