With training camp already underway, the New England Patriots have fully set their sights onto the upcoming 2022 season.
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 first-year defensive tackle Jeremiah Pharms Jr.
Name: Jeremiah Pharms Jr.
Position: Defensive tackle
Jersey number: 72
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6-foot-3, 300 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2024 (2025 RFA)
What is his experience? Pharms Jr. entered the NFL Draft in 2020 but teams did play little attention to him. Not only did he go unselected, he also remaining unsigned as a free agent and did not even receive any workout offers. It took him more than two years to finally sign his first contract in the league, joining the Patriots as a de facto undrafted rookie in July. He has appeared in 11 training camp practices since then but has no in-game experience on his résumé — at least not during his time in the NFL.
Pharms Jr., after all, spent time with five different teams over the course of his college and pro careers before arriving in New England. He started out at Sacramento City College before transferring to San Joaquin Delta College and eventually Friends University; he had 14.5 sacks during his senior campaign with the Falcons. After going undrafted, he spent time with the Wichita Force of the Champions Indoor Football League and was later chosen by the Pittsburgh Maulers in the 26th round of 2022 USFL Draft.
What did his 2021 season look like? With Covid-19 disrupting operations not just in the NFL but throughout the pro and semi-pro football landscape, Pharms Jr. had to wait until 2021 to finally make his debut. Joining the Wichita Force, he went on to produce a productive first season as an indoor player. Seeing action in all 11 of the Force’s games, he finished the year as one of their best defenders; Pharms Jr. was tied for the team lead with 4.5 sacks and additionally registered 31 tackles as well as two forced fumbles and one pass-breakup.
With the CIF season already coming to an end in late June, however, there was plenty of time for Pharms Jr. to look after other opportunities. He found one in the new USFL and eventually was selected 214th overall in the position-based 2022 draft: the 22nd interior defensive lineman to come off the board, he joined the Pittsburgh Maulers. While the team finished with a league-worst 1-9 record, Pharms Jr. had a solid individual campaign. When all was said and done, he had registered 31 tackles as well as a pair of sacks.
What is his projected role? Look no further than his 6-foot-3, 300-pound frame to know what role Pharms Jr. is going to be playing for the Patriots. He is an interior defensive lineman, who is well-built to serve as a two-gapping tackle or end versus the run and who has some solid burst out of his stance against the pass. Realistically, Pharms Jr. will be a package-specific player but one who could have a positive impact nonetheless.
Does he have positional versatility? Pharms Jr.’s size prevents him from playing anywhere else than the interior defensive line, but within that role he should be able to showcase some flexibility. Just like most of New England’s other D-linemen, he will be asked to line up in several spots up front and move everywhere from the 0-technique nose position to the 5-technique end spot. Additionally, he will likely see some kicking game action as well.
What is his special teams value? You will never see Pharms Jr. become a multi-unit special teamer, but his size should still allow him to carve out a regular role in the game’s third phase. He will be used as a pressure player on field goal and extra point attempts, attacking the pocket from one of the interior spot along the line. As a result, he might play as much as one third of special teams snaps any given week.
What is his salary cap situation? Even though he entered the NFL Draft back in 2020, Pharms Jr. is still considered a rookie by the league’s definition. When New England brought him in last month, he therefore signed a standard three-year undrafted free agency deal. That contract has a total value of $2.56 million, with $705,000 of it due this year. However, the contract does not include any guarantees: the $705,000 are Pharms Jr.’s base salary and therefore only become relevant in case he makes the 53-man roster.
How safe is his roster spot? Based on his lack of experience and résumé all the way back to his days in college, Pharms Jr. is a lot closer to the “camp body” than the “roster lock” category. That does not mean he will not be able to make the team or practice squad, though. In fact, he did have some good moments during the first few training camp practices. Those alone will not help him survive cutdown day but they are an encouraging base from which to build.
One-sentence projection: Pharms Jr. will see regular action in preseason but ultimately fail to make the team, possibly joining the practice squad after his release.