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Patriots 2022 roster breakdown: Can CFL all-star Drew Desjarlais crack New England’s roster?

Related: Patriots roster breakdown: David Andrews is the leader of New England’s offensive line

NFL: JUN 07 New England Patriots Minicamp Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With training camp already underway, the New England Patriots have fully set their sights onto the upcoming 2022 season.

The team currently has 84 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 rookie offensive lineman Drew Desjarlais.

Hard facts

Name: Drew Desjarlais

Position: Guard/Interior offensive lineman

Jersey number: 61

Opening day age: 25

Size: 6-foot-2, 315 pounds

Contract status: Under contract through 2024 (2025 RFA)

Experience

What is his experience? Before becoming an all-star lineman in the Canadian Football League, Desjarlais spent four seasons at the University of Windsor in his home province of Ontario. Playing both left and right guard for the Lancers, he started all of the 27 games he appeared in between 2015 and 2018. His performance as a reliable and versatile interior offensive lineman did not allow him to go selected in the 2019 NFL Draft, but it made him a popular target in its CFL counterpart: Desjarlais was picked fourth overall.

The highest draft pick in Windsor history, he joined the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and made an immediate impact as a rookie: Desjarlais earned a starting job down the line for a team that ended the year as Grey Cup champions. Even though the CFL’s 2020 season was canceled due to Covid-19, he did not skip a beat in 2021 and left the league earlier this year with an impressive résumé: he has appeared in a total of 37 regular season and playoff games games, winning two titles and earning West Division all-star honors.

What did his 2021 season look like? When Desjarlais and the Blue Bombers took the field on Aug. 5, 2021, against the Hamilton Tiger Cats, they were 15 months removed from their last game. Even though the Coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the CFL’s entire 2020 season, the former first-round draft pick was able to make the famous second-year jump in what was actually his third season as a pro: Desjarlais earned a regular starting spot along Winnipeg’s interior offensive line and delivered his best season to date.

Serving as the team’s starting left guard, he saw action in the team’s 14 regular season games as well as its two playoff contests — including the 108th Grey Cup that ended with a 33-25 overtime win over Hamilton. At that point, Desjarlais had already been named to the West Division all-star team as confirmation of his status as one of the league’s better guards. As such, he started to draw interest from the NFL and was released by the Blue Bombers to be able to pursue a career south of the border.

Desjarlais eventually was invited for a workout with the New York Jets in January — his next contact with the NFL after trying out in rookie minicamp with both the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants in 2019 — and twice visited the Patriots that very same month. He ended up signing a reserve/futures contract with them a short time later, allowing him to participate in the team’s 2022 offseason workouts and ultimately training camp (as well as, possibly, the preseason).

2022 preview

What is his projected role? Throughout his four-year college career at Windsor and three years in the CFL, Desjarlais lined up along the interior offensive line. The expectation is that he will do the same in the NFL and as such compete for a backup spot behind the current starting three: David Andrews at center and Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu at guard. Realistically, Desjarlais will be competing for one of two open spots behind the trio.

Does he have positional versatility? Desjarlais was a starter at left guard for the Blue Bombers in 2021, but he does have some experience on the other side of the line as well stemming from his rookie season. Being able to play both guard positions will be key to his prospects of making the roster, but he might have to learn how to also handle snapping duties in case of emergency. Still, Desjarlais has the baseline versatility New England is looking for in its offensive linemen.

What is his special teams value? Just like almost every other offensive lineman in the league, Desjarlais has but limited value in the kicking game. Realistically, he will serve as a blocker on the field goal and extra point kicking units and see no other action on special teams. The Patriots might bring him in on the punt coverage team to help shore up the protection, but such a usage seems unlikely given his 6-foot-2, 315-pound frame.

What is his salary cap situation? Despite his prior experience in the CFL, Desjarlais entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent and as such was signed to a standard three-year contract. In 2022, he is counting $706,666 against New England’s cap — a number currently not big enough to qualify for Top-51 status. The deal itself is divided into a partially-guaranteed salary of $705,000 ($60,000 of which guaranteed) as well as a $1,666 signing bonus proration.

How safe is his roster spot? A powerful blocker who plays with a physical edge, Desjarlais has the makings of an NFL-caliber offensive lineman. That being said, he is standing on shaky ground on New England’s current roster. The team has plenty of other interior linemen under contract right now, with William Sherman, Yasir Durant, Arlington Hambright and rookies Chasen Hines and Andrew Stueber as his potential competition. A good training camp performance will help him beat them out, but the 25-year-old has ways to go.

One-sentence projection: Desjarlais’ quest to make the team will fall short, but he will ultimately find a home on the New England practice squad.