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 offensive lineman Yasir Durant.
Name: Yasir Durant
Position: Guard/Offensive tackle
Jersey number: 70
Opening day age: 24
Size: 6-foot-6, 330 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2022 (2023 ERFA)
What is his experience? Durant entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2020, starting his career with the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite his lack of draft pedigree, he was able to make the team’s 53-man roster and see some action as a reserve lineman and special teamer. The Chiefs traded him to New England in September 2021, where he continued to play a similar role. All in all, the Missouri product has been on the field in a combined 20 regular season and playoff games; he has two starts on his résumé.
While his starter-level experience in the NFL is quite limited, Durant has plenty of it from his time in college. After spending his freshman year at Arizona Western Community College, where he played right guard and some left tackle, he transferred to Missouri in 2017. Over the next three seasons, Durant established himself as the Tigers’ starting left tackle; he ended up appearing in 37 games with 34 starts over his three-year stint in Columbia. He was invited to the Scouting Combine and East-West Shrine Bowl after his senior campaign.
What did his 2021 season look like? Coming off a comparatively successful rookie season in Kansas City, Durant entered his second NFL training camp competing for a backup spot along the Chiefs’ interior offensive line. Moving between left and right guard as well as right tackle, he saw considerable action during the team’s three preseason contests. However, his up-and-down performance — he was credited with four quarterback pressures, for example — led the club to put him on the trade block ahead of roster cutdowns.
The Patriots decided to pick him up, sending a 2022 seventh-round draft pick to the Chiefs to get Durant aboard instead of allowing him to enter the waiver wire. The move bolstered New England’s offensive line depth — depth that would get tested early during the regular season. The season opener against the Miami Dolphins, after all, saw starting right tackle Trent Brown go down with a calf strain just seven snaps in; Durant was one of the players used to help replace the veteran over the coming weeks.
As a result, he played 82 offensive snaps between Weeks 1 and 5 as well as 23 on special teams; Durant even started one contest, in Week 2 versus the New York Jets. However, his performance was uneven — he gave up three sacks in those five games, including two against the Jets — and he eventually was relegated to backup duty again down the stretch. In total, Durant ended his first year as a Patriot having appeared in nine out of 18 games, accumulating an offensive playing-time share of 8.1 percent (95 of 1,169).
Additionally, he played 30 of 464 possible snaps in the kicking game (6.5%). However, a vast majority of his action on both offense and special teams came during the first six weeks of the season. Afterwards, he saw snaps in just three games and was little more than an emergency player at both guard and tackle. Adding to Durant’s relative inactivity was a brief stint on the Coronavirus reserve list in mid-December. All in all, his first year in New England can therefore be seen as a challenging one for the former UDFA.
What is his projected role? Going back to his days at Arizona Western, Durant has played both at guard and tackle. Now in his first full year as Patriot, this versatility might again be his biggest asset. The 24-year-old, after all, is competing for a depth spot along the team’s offensive line in training camp and preseason; he projects as a rotational and emergency option at either spot — potential lining up behind right guard Michael Onwenu or right tackle Isaiah Wynn.
Does he have positional versatility? Indeed. Durant has been moved around the offensive line quite a bit since entering the NFL, and has seen either preseason or regular season action at left guard, right guard and right tackle. Based on how the team used him in 2021 and thus far in training camp, however, it appears that New England’s coaching staff projects him primarily as a right-side player despite his experience on the left.
What is his special teams value? Just like almost every other offensive lineman, Durant has limited value as far as the kicking game is concerned. Of course, that does not mean he has no value: the Patriots used him on the field goal and extra point protection units in 2021, having him align at both right and left tackle. Any other usage seems unrealistic, though, simply based on his massive 6-foot-6, 330-pound frame.
What is his salary cap situation? Durant signed a three-year undrafted rookie deal with the Chiefs in 2020 that transferred to New England upon him getting traded there last September. As a result, he remains under contract for two more seasons. The first of those sees him play on a base salary of $780,000 that also functions as his cap number; Durant has no additional bonuses in his contract. His deal currently does not qualify for Top-51 status, meaning he will only count versus the cap after making the roster or practice squad.
How safe is his roster spot? The Patriots invested a draft pick to bring Durant aboard last year and even gave him some in-game opportunities. However, he is far from a lock to make the team this year: New England’s right-side offensive line is set at the top — guard Michael Onwenu and tackle Isaiah Wynn will be the starters — with Arlington Hambright and Justin Herron the frontrunners to take the backup spots behind them. Durant might be fighting for a spot on the practice squad this summer.
One-sentence projection: Durant will end up released on roster cutdown day, but eventually find his way to the Patriots’ practice squad.