With training camp already underway, the New England Patriots have fully set their sights onto the upcoming 2022 season.
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 rookie offensive lineman Kody Russey.
Name: Kody Russey
Jersey number: TBD (Offseason No. 66)
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6-foot-2, 300 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2024 (2025 UFA)
What is his experience? Russey did not hear his name called during the NFL’s 2022 draft, having to go the free agency route to enter the league. It did not take him long to find a home, with the Patriots picking him up shortly after the conclusion of the seventh round. Since then, Russey has participated in the rookie developmental program and minicamp as well as organized team activities, mandatory minicamp, and the first week of training camp. He will play his first game at the NFL level in preseason.
Before turning pro, Russey spent five seasons at Louisiana Tech as well as another at as a super senior at Houston. After redshirting as a freshman in 2016, he went on to appear in 63 games over the course of his college career — including 60 of them as a starter. Before his transfer to the Cougars in 2021, Russey was one of the top centers in the Conference USA: he was named to the first all-conference team in 2020 and additionally made the all-star squad three previous times as an honorable mention.
What did his 2021 season look like? Coming off a successful five-year stint at Louisiana Tech, Russey decided to enter the transfer portal and leave the Bulldogs. He eventually ended up at Houston, where he teamed up with future Patriots third-round draft pick Marcus Jones. Despite his lack of experience in the system, Russey was able to earn the Cougars’ starting center role and he ended up as a major presence on an offense that ranked No. 15 in the nation in scoring.
Not only did he start all 14 games in his first and only year with the program — thus becoming the active leader at the FBS level in snaps at the center position — he also was named a team captain. A fundamentally sound player with a physical attitude as both a pass protector and a run blocker, Russey was named to the second all-conference team in his first year in the ACC. Despite his success both at Houston and Louisiana Tech, he was not invited to the Scouting Combine and eventually went undrafted.
What is his projected role? After starting 58 games at the center position in college, Russey is not expected to suddenly make a position switch upon joining the Patriots. The first few days of training camp are a confirmation of that: Russey served as the No. 3 center behind starter David Andrews and veteran backup James Ferentz. Additionally, he will compete for a backup spot at the two guard spots as well.
Does he have positional versatility? Even though the vast majority of his snaps at Houston and Louisiana Tech came at center, Russey does have some experience elsewhere as well. His first two starts back in 2017, after all, came at the Bulldogs’ left guard position. He eventually moved to the center spot and permanently stayed there, but he should be able to work all three interior spots in the NFL.
What is his special teams value? Listed at 6-foot-2, 300 pounds, Russey’s value in the kicking game will be limited. Realistically, he will play the same role most other offensive linemen play: he will see action on the protection teams on both field goal and extra point attempts, possibly lining up at either guard position next to long snapper Joe Cardona. Other than that, he will not be used in the game’s third phase.
What is his salary cap situation? Russey signed a standard three-year contract with the Patriots after joining them as a rookie free agent earlier this year. The deal is structured in a pretty straight-forward fashion: the 24-year-old is playing on a $705,000 salary while also carrying a $10,000 signing bonus proration. His resulting cap hit of $715,000 is not large enough to qualify for Top-51 status, meaning that Russey will only count against New England’s books if he makes the roster or practice squad.
How safe is his roster spot? Even though the Patriots guaranteed $150,000 of his salary and gave him a $30,000 signing bonus, Russey is no lock to make the roster this season. After all, the team is well-set at the center spot with veteran David Andrews as the starter and James Ferentz offering experience as a backup. If the rookie can challenge Ferentz and hold his own compared to other interior linemen — especially Chasen Hines, who is also able to line up at center — he might still be able to make the cut, though.
One-sentence projection: Russey will find himself on the 53-man roster over Ferentz at one point this season, but eventually spend most of the year on the practice squad.