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 third-year wide receiver Josh Hammond.
Name: Josh Hammond
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 80
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6-foot-0, 195 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2022 (2023 ERFA)
What is his experience? Hammond entered the NFL in 2020, when the Jacksonville Jaguars picked him up as an undrafted rookie free agent. Spending his first two years in the league on the team’s practice squad, he received only limited opportunities to prove himself and has appeared in only two games thus far. The Jaguars eventually parted ways with him after the 2022 draft; Hammond went on to briefly join the Philadelphia Eagles and after waived again signed a one-year deal to participate in the Patriots’ training camp.
Before his time as a pro, Hammond spent four seasons at the University of Florida — proving himself a reliable pass catcher, who appeared in a combined 49 games with 31 starts. Although mostly a WR3 on a team that was filled with NFL talent throughout its receiving corps, he was able to put up some steady numbers: Hammond finished his career with a combined 87 catches for 1,138 yards and six touchdowns. He also carried the ball nine times for 134 yards and an additional pair of scores.
What did his 2021 season look like? After having spent his entire rookie season on the Jaguars’ practice squad and without any in-game appearances — even preseason was canceled that year — Hammond did get another chance when he re-signed with the Jaguars on a one-year reserve/futures contract in January. The new deal gave him another opportunity to prove himself as a player worth keeping around; he was not able to fully do that but still remained in Jacksonville throughout his sophomore campaign.
Hammond saw most of his action in preseason, and took the field for 81 of a possible 217 offensive snaps (37.3%). Despite playing not even half of the Jaguars’ snaps during the exhibition portion of the schedule, he finished as the team’s leader in receptions (12) and receiving yards (124). Nonetheless, Hammond was released ahead of the roster cutdown deadline and eventually added to the practice squad. He spent the remainder of the season there but was twice elevated to the game-day squad.
The first such elevations came ahead of a Week 16 matchup with the New York Jets. Hammond was called up as a Covid-19 replacement and ended up playing eight snaps on the offensive side of the ball. He reverted back and did not suit up against New England the following week, but was flexed again for the season finale versus the Indianapolis Colts. That day, Hammond played five snaps on offense and two more in the kicking game. He did not register any statistics, but was signed to another futures contract after the season.
What is his projected role? While his first two seasons in the NFL might not be fully reflective of his potential — his rookie year was disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic while his sophomore campaign was spent under tumultuous circumstances caused by head coach Urban Meyer — Hammond still projects as little more than a depth wide receiver. A WR3 or WR4 at best, he can offer depth at the Z-receiver spot; the 24-year-old has spent most of his time split out wide but he also has experience moving into the slot.
Does he have positional versatility? As noted above, Hammond has experience playing both on the perimeter of the formation and in the slot. He also saw some action as a ball carrier back in college, averaging an impressive 14.9 yards on his nine rushing attempts. Nobody is going to confuse Hammond for Swiss Army Knife-type players such as San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel, but his experience playing multiple roles is still a plus.
What is his special teams value? Hammond’s kicking game experience is somewhat limited, and he has received only a handful of special teams snaps since entering the NFL. The Jaguars did not use him in the game’s third phase last preseason before giving him a pair of snaps as part of their kickoff return unit in Week 18 versus Indianapolis. The Patriots, meanwhile, used him on kickoff coverage and kickoff return during their preseason opener versus New York last week.
What is his salary cap situation? After his released from the Eagles last month, the Patriots picked Hammond up on a one-year contract at a total value of $705,000. That deal is entirely made out of his base salary, with no guarantees of any kind attached to it. Accordingly, it is currently not counted against New England’s salary cap. Hammond would only qualify if he makes the 53-man roster come September.
How safe is his roster spot? Given his contract situation and comparatively limited playing time in the preseason opener — he was used as WR4 behind Tre Nixon, Kristian Wilkerson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey — Hammond appears to be firmly on the roster bubble. He has some experience and positional flexibility, but is facing a major uphill climb to unseat any of the three for a spot on the practice squad let alone the active roster.
One-sentence projection: Hammond will get released, possibly even ahead of the final cutdown day on Aug. 30.