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Patriots 2022 roster breakdown: Is Bill Murray turning into a two-way player?

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

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 third-year lineman Bill Murray.

Hard facts

Name: Bill Murray

Position: Guard/Defensive tackle

Jersey number: 62

Opening day age: 25

Size: 6-foot-3, 265 pounds

Contract status: Under contract through 2022 (2023 ERFA)

Experience

What is his experience? Murray originally arrived in the NFL back in 2020, when the Patriots signed him as a rookie free agent shortly after he went unselected in the draft. He went on to spend both of his first two seasons as a pro on the team’s practice squad, not seeing any in-game action outside of preseason. But while his experience at the NFL level is therefore limited mostly to behind-the-scenes and practice work, the youngster has played a lot of football during his five-year career at William & Mary between 2015 and 2019.

Murray had a quiet start to his college career, redshirting during his first season with the Tribe and serving only in a rotational role in 2016. By his sophomore year, however though, he had been able to earn a starting job along the defensive line and never looked back. Murray thus went on to finish his time at the school with 40 in-game appearances as well as 19 sacks from his defensive tackle position. He also blocked an impressive 10 kicks in four seasons and was named second team All-CAA in both 2018 and 2019.

What did his 2021 season look like? After spending the entirety of his 2020 rookie campaign on New England’s practice squad (with the exception of a brief stint on the Covid-19 reserve list), Murray signed a one-year futures pact with the club in January. The contract allowed him to get another crack at earning a role with the organization — which is not quite what happened: Murray was released during roster cutdowns, after all. However, he went unclaimed on waivers and again reverted to the Patriots practice squad.

The sophomore went on to spend the entirety of the regular season and New England’s one-game playoff trip there, not seeing any in-game action along the way while serving as an emergency option along the interior defensive line. Nonetheless, Murray was able to appear in an actual game against NFL competition for the first time in his career: he saw regular opportunities on both defense and special teams during preseason, which was quite a change compared to his rookie campaign.

The Coronavirus pandemic had forced the league to cancel its exhibition contests that year. No such thing happened in 2021, and Murray went on to play 81 snaps on defense (of 204; 39.7%) as well as 27 more on special teams (of 72; 37.5%). He was quite productive, registering 8.5 quarterback disruptions — including one-and-a-half sacks — as well as four tackles and a pass deflection. His performance was no enough to earn him a spot on New England’s 53, but it did convince the team to keep him around for another year.

2022 preview

What is his projected role? Up until the first day of training camp his role would have been projected as a do-it all defensive lineman. During last year’s preseason, after all, Murray played multiple techniques up front from the nose to the edge; he would have been viewed as a candidate to earn a depth spot behind the likes of Christian Barmore, Davon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Lawrence Guy. However, the Patriots moved him to the offensive line to open camp and he saw extensive action as a right guard ever since. Accordingly, Murray appears to be competing for a backup spot behind Michael Onwenu.

Does he have positional versatility? Well, duh! Not only did Murray, as mentioned above, play all over New England’s D-line last preseason, he also can now add guard to his résumé albeit only in a practice setting. Nonetheless, his ability to be a two-way player on top of also being used as a five-unit special teamer in 2021 says it all: the 25-year-old might be one of the most versatile players on the Patriots’ roster right now, even if the move to the O-line does not turn out to be a permanent one.

What is his special teams value? Despite being listed as 6-foot-4, 265 pounds, Murray saw considerable kicking game snaps during last year’s preseason. In fact, the Patriots used him on five units: he worked on both kickoff return and coverage and saw action on the punt return unit as well; New England even used him as a gunner (!) on punt coverage at one point. Additionally, and least surprisingly, he was employed on the field goal/extra point blocking unit. Heading into 2022 as an offensive lineman, he might be able to add place kick protection to his special teams repertoire.

What is his salary cap situation? Murray re-signed with the Patriots on a one-year futures contract after the end of their 2021 season. As part of this deal he is carrying a $720,000 salary cap number that is split up into a $705,000 salary and $15,000 signing bonus. As can be seen, the contract does not contain any guarantees; it also does currently not qualify for Top-51 status and would only count against the books if Murray makes the team (or, under a new deal, the practice squad).

How safe is his roster spot? Despite his impressive versatility, Murray is firmly on the roster bubble at the moment. The team apparently does not view him as a must-have member of its defensive line rotation, which now means that he will compete against the likes of James Ferentz, William Sherman, Drew Desjarlais, Arlington Hambright and Kody Russey for what will likely be no more than two backup spots along the interior. Given his one-dimensionality — he only played on the right side — and lack of experience, he can be seen as a long shot to actually emerge victoriously from this competition.

One-sentence projection: Murray will again see a ton of action in preseason, possibly even in all three phases of the game, but is headed for the practice squad at the end of the day.