When the New England Patriots signed wide receiver Jalen Reagor in late August, the move flew mostly under the radar. Even though Reagor had been a first-round draft pick just three years prior, his pro career had been a disappointment — allowing the Patriots to pick him up via a practice squad contract in the first place.
After spending the first seven weeks of the season on New England’s developmental roster, the 24-year-old has now been added to the 53-man team. The foundation for that promotion was laid in practice.
“Jalen’s come in, been a really good scout team player for us,” Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said on Wednesday. “We’ve played against a lot of top receivers, and he’s gotten a lot of a good opportunities with some of the routes that those guys run to kind of be featured a little bit on some of the scout team plays.
“He’s earned some playing time, which has come from his practice time, practice performance. He’s picking up the offense, and we’ll see how it goes. He’s got good talent, good guy to work with, glad we have him.”
While Reagor remained on the practice squad, the Patriots did elevate him to their game day roster on three occasions. He was moved up for a Week 2 contest against the Miami Dolphins without seeing any actual snaps, and then again in Weeks 6 and 7 versus the Las Vegas Raiders and Buffalo Bills, respectively.
Reagor played 14 offensive snaps in Las Vegas, followed by a season-high 25 in the win over the Bills. That latter game also saw him catch his first pass as a Patriot, an 11-yard slant in the third quarter.
“He’s great,” quarterback Mac Jones said about Reagor. “Jalen, seen him in college, seen his college tape. He’s a very fast football player. He does a great job learning the playbook quickly, and one of the other things is in practice just how impressive he is in getting open, finishing and catching the ball. So, I really have a lot of respect for him and how he works. Hopefully, he can continue to grow.”
After a productive three-year career at TCU, Reagor decided to skip his senior season and turn pro. The gamble paid off, and he heard his name called 21st overall in the 2020 draft.
Despite his draft status, however, Reagor never managed to develop past a rotational and special teams role with the Philadelphia Eagles. In total, he appeared in 29 regular season and playoff games for the club, catching 65 passes for 697 yards and three touchdowns.
He also served as a punt and kickoff returner, but two muffs in a playoff loss to Tampa Bay in his sophomore season helped seal his fate: Reagor was traded to the Minnesota Vikings a few months later.
Instead of getting a fresh start as a Viking, Reagor continued to play a marginal role. Despite seeing action in 18 games, he caught just eight passes for 104 yards and a score. He also fumbled the ball five times to bring his career total to 11.
When the Vikings released Reagor at the end of this year’s training camp, his career appeared over. However, New England picked him up as a scout team option at the wide receiver position.
A few weeks later, he has emerged past that status.