With training camp already underway, the New England Patriots have fully set their sights onto the upcoming 2022 season.
The team currently has 83 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 tight end Devin Asiasi.
Name: Devin Asiasi
Position: Tight end
Jersey number: 86
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6-foot-3, 260 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2023 (2024 UFA)
What is his experience? A four-star recruit out of high school, Asiasi started his college career at Michigan. After appearing in 13 games as a true freshman — catching two passes for 18 yards and one touchdown — he decided to transfer back to his home state and join UCLA. The move forced him to sit out 2017 under the NCAA’s transfer rules, but he saw some regular action the following two seasons: he registered 50 catches for 771 yards and five touchdowns before deciding to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft.
Asiasi heard his name called in the third round, with the Patriots moving up nine spot to No. 91 overall in order to bring him in. However, his first two seasons as a pro did not see him live up to his Day 2 draft status. Injuries hampered his development as a rookie, while he found himself buried on the depth chart as a sophomore. As a result, his output through two years in New England is nothing to write home about: Asiasi has played just 225 offensive snaps over 10 games, catching two passes for 39 yards and a touchdown.
What did his 2021 season look like? Asiasi entered the 2021 offseason off a quiet rookie year that saw him spend time on injured reserve and never establish himself as a starter-caliber tight end. While there was plenty of potential for him to make a second-year jump, his outlook was a murky one as soon as the NFL calendar turned from 2020 to 2021. The Patriots, after all, invested considerable resources to bring the top two tight ends available in free agency aboard: Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry.
With those two ahead of him on the depth chart, Asiasi was left fighting for the No. 3 spot at tight end. The fact that he was forced to miss the start of training camp after testing positive for Covid-19 did not help him, but he eventually did return to the field to see regular action in the Patriots’ three preseason contests: playing 113 of a possible 199 offensive snaps during the exhibition slate (56.8%), Asiasi caught four passes for 64 yards — despite serving primarily as a run blocker rather than a receiver.
That would be the extent of his receiving output during the 2021 season, however. Even though he made the team as TE3 behind Smith and Henry, the veterans’ presence forced him to spend most of his sophomore campaign as a game-day inactive. In fact, Asiasi only saw the field once all year: with Smith absent due to a shoulder injury, he served as a backup to Henry in a Week 10 victory over the Cleveland Browns. Asiasi played 12 offensive snaps but did not record any statistics. He returned to the bench after the game.
What is his projected role? In theory, Asiasi is an all-around tight end capable of playing a versatile role for the Patriots offense. He can serve as both an in-line option and also has some potential as a blocker and receiver to succeed as a Y-tight end as well. Here’s the kicker, though: with Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry both ahead of him on the depth chart and not going anywhere anytime soon, he projects as a TE3 yet again.
Does he have positional versatility? Asiasi displayed some good flexibility during his time at UCLA, and the Patriots appeared to build on this since his arrival: he is more than just a one-dimensional player at the tight end position, with the team trusting him to serve as both a receiver and a blocker. Additionally, Asiasi lined up in several positions. He saw snaps in-line, in the slot, and — at least occasionally during his rookie campaign — split out wide.
What is his special teams value? Two years into his NFL career, Asiasi has not seen any special teams snaps outside of the preseason. Even in an exhibition setting he was used only sparingly in the game’s third phase: last year’s preseason finale versus the New York Giants saw Asiasi play six total snaps between the kickoff return (2), punt coverage (2) and field goal/extra point protection squads (2). Heading into 2022, his special teams value can therefore best be described as “limited.”
What is his salary cap situation? Entering the third season of his four-year rookie deal, Asiasi is carrying a salary cap number of $1.23 million — enough to qualify him for Top-51 status during the offseason. The deal itself is structured in a pretty straight-forward manner: the former third-round draft pick is playing on a $1.01 million base salary as well as a fully-guaranteed signing bonus proration worth $223,240.
How safe is his roster spot? Despite his status as a former third-round draft pick, Asiasi’s outlook heading into 2022 is not necessarily an encouraging one. Henry and Smith are not going anywhere while his performance this summer was marked by ups and downs. The Patriots might decide to keep him as emergency depth yet again, but it would also not be surprising if they moved on from him via trade or release. At the end of the day, his outlook will come down to one question: Is Asiasi’ presence on the 53-man squad more valuable to the team than, for example, another wide receiver or defensive back?
One-sentence projection: The Patriots will part ways with Asiasi ahead of the roster cutdown deadline in favor of a player such as wideout Lil’Jordan Humphrey.