With the preseason underway, the New England Patriots have fully set their sights onto their upcoming 2022 campaign.
The Patriots currently have 80 players under contract, but only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns in late August 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 New England build on its 10-7 record.
Today, the series continues with rookie second-year defensive lineman Christian Barmore.
Name: Christian Barmore
Position: Defensive tackle/Defensive line
Jersey number: 90
Opening day age: 23
Size: 6-foot-4, 310 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2024 (2025 UFA)
What is his experience? Barmore entered the NFL when the Patriots traded up in the second round of last year’s draft to bring him aboard. Despite only heading into his sophomore campaign as a pro, the defensive tackle does have considerable experience already: a starter-level player, Barmore appeared in a combined 18 regular season and playoff games for New England as a rookie. Additionally, he also has plenty of high-quality football on his résumé from his time at the University of Alabama.
After taking a redshirt year in 2018, Barmore established himself as a disruptive presence along Alabama’s defensive line over his final two seasons of collegiate football. All in all, he appeared in 24 games — six of them as a starter — and put up some impressive numbers: Barmore finished his career with the Crimson Tide with 63 tackles, 10.0 sacks as well as three forced fumbles. He also earned All-SEC honors in both 2019 (all-freshman team) and 2020 (first team all-conference) and won a national championship.
What did his 2021 season look like? The notoriously trade-happy Patriots swung just one of them during the 2021 draft, moving up in the second round to select Barmore 38th overall. New England paid a steep price to climb eight spots and pick the highest-rated defensive tackle in the draft: the team sent three total selections to the Cincinnati Bengals, parting ways with a second- (46th) and two fourth-rounders (122nd and 139th). The investment, however, paid immediate dividends from New England’s perspective.
Barmore, after all, developed into an instant difference-maker along the team’s defensive line. Appearing in all 17 regular season games plus the wild card playoff defeat versus the Buffalo Bills, the rookie was on the field for 55.6 percent of New England’s defensive snaps during his first NFL season (631 of 1,135). Only fellow offseason acquisition Davon Godchaux had a higher playing time share among the team’s interior defensive linemen (59.3%), which speaks for Barmore’s ability to quickly adapt to life as a Patriot.
He justified getting regular opportunities by proving himself one of the most disruptive rookie defenders in the entire NFL; he was credited with 18.5 quarterback pressures — third on the Patriots behind only edge rushers Matthew Judon and Kyle Van Noy — including 1.5 sacks. While those numbers alone do not pop off the stat sheet, Barmore’s presence along the New England defensive line forced teams to adapt and account for his disruptive power against both the pass and, at least partially, the run as well.
43 of Barmore’s 46 total tackles, after all, came in the running game. Of course, however, his three missed tackles for a rate of 6.1 percent also cannot be disregarded. Additionally, the young defender also had to deal with some minor injuries throughout the season. He was listed as questionable with shoulder and foot injuries in the middle part of the year and later was also limited because of a knee issue. Barmore did not miss any games, but one has to wonder whether or not the ailments did hamper him down the stretch.
The positives far outweigh the negatives, however, when it comes to the Alabama product’s first NFL season. In fact, if not for him playing an under-the-radar position and the Dallas Cowboys’ Micah Parsons simultaneously delivering one of the best first-year campaigns in recent memory, Barmore would have been a realistic candidate to receive the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award. Even without the honor, however, there is a lot he can and the team feel good about when it comes to his first pro season.
What is his projected role? Even though the Patriots made some massive investments along their interior defensive line during the 2021 offseason, Barmore was able to carve out a prominent role in the rotation right away. Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise Jr. are all back — as is veteran Henry Anderson plus some solid-looking rookie players — but there should be no question about who will serve as a starter-level presence this year: Barmore, whose pass rush has already been impressive and who is in line to also make strides as a run defender.
Does he have positional versatility? Barmore was more impactful as a pass rusher rather than a run defender last season, but he showcased his flexibility and positional versatility all year long. This was a continuation of his time at Alabama: he played all over the defensive line for the Crimson Tide, regardless of situation. New England used him in a similar fashion, having him align anywhere from the 0-technique nose spot to the 7-technique edge/outside linebacker position.
What is his special teams value? Standing at 6-foot-4, 310 pounds, Barmore’s special teams value is comparatively limited. That being said, he was still employed in the game’s third phase on a somewhat regular basis as a rookie: he took the field for a combined 35 snaps with the Patriots’ field goal and extra point blocking units in 2021 (of 464; 7.5%). While he ranked on the lower end of the spectrum compared to fellow starter-level defensive tackles Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy and Deatrich Wise Jr., he still offered something in the kicking game.
What is his salary cap situation? The final member of the Patriots’ 2021 draft class to sign his rookie contract, Barmore agreed to a four-year, $8.52 million deal with the organization. When it comes to his 2022 sophomore campaign, he is carrying a salary cap number of $1.94 million: Barmore is playing on a $1.05 million base salary as well as a $889,503 signing bonus proration — both of which fully guaranteed. Considering his potential role and impact, however, he could still be a massive bargain for the club.
How safe is his roster spot? 100 percent. Barmore’s draft status alone would keep him safe heading into Year 2, but he also has proven himself a building-block-caliber player already. Coming off a strong rookie season, he is in line to make the famous second-year jump and together with fellow long-time investments Davon Godchaux and Deatrich Wise Jr. will form the basis of New England’s interior defensive line for years to come.
One-sentence projection: Barmore’s numbers will improve across the board and it would not be a surprise if he ended 2022 as one of the most disruptive interior D-linemen in all of football.