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 second-year offensive lineman William Sherman.
Name: William Sherman
Position: Guard/Center/Offensive tackle
Jersey number: 68
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6-foot-3, 310 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2022 (2023 ERFA)
What is his experience? A sixth-round selection by the Patriots in last year’s draft, Sherman’s experience at the professional level is rather limited. The 197th overall pick did participate in New England’s offseason workouts and training camp, and saw regular action in preseason, but he eventually appeared in only one game during his rookie regular season. Despite serving mostly as an emergency and developmental player, though, Sherman does have plenty of football on his résumé.
After starting his career at the University of Colorado in a redshirt capacity, Sherman took over as the starting left tackle four games into his second year in the program. Even though he had to play under three different offensive line coaches over his final three years in school, he never looked back: Sherman started 27 straight games before declaring for the draft after his junior season. Moving between the left and the right tackle positions, he earned All-Pac 12 honors in both 2018 (honorable) and 2020 (second team).
What did his 2021 season look like? As noted above, Sherman declared for the NFL Draft following his junior season at Colorado. The preparatory process leading up to the event looked different than in years past, however, with the Covid-19 pandemic limiting his opportunities to showcase his skills; the Scouting Combine was canceled and teams had to follow strict restrictions when contacting prospects. Sherman worked out at his Pro Day but eventually did not convince any team to select him before the Patriots did at No. 197 overall.
Once in New England, he went through the usual rookie schedule — developmental program, rookie minicamp, organized team activities, mandatory minicamp, training camp and, eventually, preseason. The youngster saw action in all three games, lining up exclusively at the right guard position: Sherman took the field for 47 of a possible 199 offensive snaps (23.6%) while being credited with one quarterback disruption given up. He additionally was used on 16 out of 72 snaps on special teams (22.2%).
Sherman’s performance over the summer did not allow him to make the 53-man team but he quickly re-signed with New England’s practice squad following his release on cutdown day. The sixth-rounder went on to spend his entire first campaign in the NFL on the Patriots’ developmental roster, but he was elevated to the game-day team on one occasion: in Week 5 against the Houston Texans, he did not just dress for the first and only time in his career, he also played six snaps on the field goal and extra point protection squads.
What is his projected role? Even though all 27 of his starts in college came at the tackle position, the Patriots decided to move Sherman inside to guard — a move that did not come as too big a surprise given his comparative lack of length. Accordingly, he is competing for a backup spot along the interior offensive line to offer depth behind starting guards Cole Strange and Michael Onwenu, and possibly even center William Sherman.
Does he have positional versatility? As noted above, Sherman offers some intriguing versatility as an inside/outside player. He started 15 games in college at the left tackle position, and in 2019 added 12 more starts during a one-year stint as Colorado’s right tackle; he also aligned at right guard throughout last year’s preseason and training camp. While it appears that this position will be the foundation upon which he is building, he offers some experience playing other spots as well. This year’s training camp only saw him grow his repertoire: he also saw a few reps at center so far.
What is his special teams value? Offensive linemen have only limited value in the kicking game due to their size, and Sherman is no exception. That being said, he should be able to see some action on special teams again in 2022: like they did last season, the Patriots could use him as a protector on both field goal and extra point attempts, having him line up as either a tackle or guard on the left side of the line.
What is his salary cap situation? The Patriots re-signed Sherman to a one-year reserve/futures contract after the end of his rookie season, and the deal itself is a pretty straight-forward one: it carries a $705,000 salary that also works as his cap hit. The contract does not include any guarantees and is currently not large enough to qualify for Top-51 status; Sherman would have to make the roster or practice squad to have any impact on New England’s books this year.
How safe is his roster spot? Given his low-cost contract and status as a former late-round draft pick competing for a backup spot on the team, Sherman’s roster spot cannot be considered safe. That said, New England’s depth along the interior offensive line is not set at the moment which in turn might create an opportunity for him to sneak onto the roster. He probably would have to beat out at least four of the following group: James Ferentz, Kody Russey, Yasir Durant, Drew Desjarlais, Arlington Hambright and Bill Murray.
One-sentence projection: Sherman could still end up rising, but at the moment it appears he is competing for the practice squad.