If you spent any time following the New England Patriots’ undrafted free agent class of 2016 you no doubt noticed the name William Jackson III, who spent a few weeks of training camp on the PUP list before being cut. But if you’ve been watching the film with a closer eye, you’ve noticed his play as a starter.
With the 2017 NFL Draft now in the rear view mirror, the New England Patriots are in the midst of the Patriots offseason, which is a time of year where many major free agents are signing contracts to join the team. This past week, we have seen two significant signings that came with a lot of hype and a lot of the country talking about their acquisitions. The first is Kenny Stills, who was a former first round pick by the Miami Dolphins, who will be in New England for the upcoming season. The other is Eric Rowe, who was a former second round pick by the New England Patriots, who will be in New England for the upcoming season.
At the start of the season, the Patriots seemed poised to be a juggernaut on and off the field, but as the season wore on, it looked like one of the most dominating teams in the league had begun to lose its edge.. Read more about tom brady and let us know what you think.
Bill Belichick has a track record of unearthing hidden talents and turning them into important players. Despite his previous history of squandering early-round selections, New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has continued to depend on undrafted free agents who have played far beyond their pay grade.
However, Belichick started training camp with a strong squad with few apparent gaps or vacant positions after spending an unprecedented amount of Robert Kraft’s money this summer and putting together an excellent 2021 NFL draft class. His newest undrafted free agent discovery, on the other hand, has suddenly become a real danger to take a starting spot that didn’t seem to be open.
Quinn Nordin’s ascent is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating stories to watch as the Patriots prepare for the next season, especially given the big-legged kicker appeared ready to retire just a few months ago.
Bill Belichick has figured out how to develop undrafted free agents into long-term assets.
Undrafted free agents Malcolm Butler, Jonathan Jones, Adam Butler, J.C. Jackson, and David Andrews are examples of significant contributions to the @Patriots. This draft class provided the Pats with a lot of value and depth, and I’m looking forward to the 2019 season! https://t.co/UBT3fOoH7B
April 28, 2019 — Steve Marchand (@marchandsteve)
Belichick’s career was altered when he took a chance on Tom Brady. While Brady offered stability, leadership, and top performance for so many years, the Patriots would not have won six Super Bowl championships between 2001 and 2018 without the assistance of other important players. Fortunately for Brady, Belichick has a habit of bringing in under-the-radar guys and giving them responsibilities in New England.
The Patriots, in particular, benefited greatly from signing undrafted free agents. The club got significant boosts from players who did not become NFL draft selections, thanks to some smart work by Belichick and the personnel staff, including:
Malcolm Butler: After going undrafted out of West Alabama in 2014, he made perhaps the most important play in Super Bowl history by intercepting Russell Wilson at the goal line and saving the Patriots from a humiliating loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Butler started 48 regular-season games with the Patriots before joining the Tennessee Titans on a five-year, $61 million deal in 2018.
David Andrews: The former Georgia Bulldogs center won a roster spot with the Patriots despite not hearing his name called during the 2015 NFL Draft. Andrews has started 69 games since joining the league and is well regarded for his steady quality of play and leadership abilities. This summer, New England signed him to a four-year, $19 million contract deal.
Jonathan Jones: Despite his outstanding athletic ability, the excellent cornerback went undrafted in 2016. Jones, on the other hand, demonstrated his ability to cover slot receivers and has since grown into one of the best players at his position. At the start of the 2019 season, the Patriots gave him a three-year, $21 million contract deal.
J.C. Jackson: In 2017, Belichick took a risk on another talented defensive back who went undrafted, and the Patriots have reaped the benefits of that choice. Since arriving in New England, Jackson has piled up 17 interceptions and 30 pass breakups. Next summer, the upcoming free agent should get a well-deserved raise, but it’s unclear if Belichick will pay up to retain the ball-hawking corner in Foxborough for years to come.
The Patriots’ newest diamond-in-the-rough acquisition saw his life take an unexpected turn thanks to Belichick.
Getty Images/Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald | Getty Images/Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire
For the last 17 years, the Patriots have had at least one undrafted free agent make the final roster.
Will Quinn Nordin make it 18 in a row?
Belichick’s newest effort to scout the UDFA levels for potential may cause the Patriots to reconsider the role of kicker in the future. After all, the Michigan graduate has made a name for himself in training camp by regularly scoring field goals from both short and long ranges. Quinn wowed the crowd by completing all three of his field-goal tries, including a 50-yarder, in Thursday’s preseason game against the Washington Football Team. Despite missing an extra point chance, the 22-year-old made a strong first impression on his professional football debut.
Of course, even Quinn would have to acknowledge that playing for Belichick (or any other NFL coach) wasn’t exactly a pipe dream a few years ago.
“I was searching for work on LinkedIn. On Monday, he informed reporters that he was considering joining the military. “I’m here because the Patriots were my only call. I’m doing the best I can, and that’s all there is to it.”
Quinn was fortunate in that he was given the opportunity to demonstrate his abilities for a club that was looking for a long-term solution for the position. Instead of growing up and becoming a factory worker or a military guy, he has a chance to make money kicking footballs.
That’s a significant change for a college graduate who didn’t have a clear plan for life after graduation. However, as the Patriots go through camp and come closer to the start of the regular season, the possibility of Quinn starting the season as the team’s kicker seems to be more feasible than previously thought.
Can Quinn Nordin knock out Nick Folk for the starting kicker position in New England?
Will Quinn be the latest undrafted free agent to join New England’s roster and contribute to the team’s success? Although it looked unlikely when he first joined the Patriots, don’t be shocked if Belichick offers the talented kicker a chance to earn NFL money in 2021.
In 2020, incumbent starter Nick Folk missed just two of his 28 field-goal tries. The 36-year-old, though, has been out of practice lately due to an unknown ailment. Folk may lose his position if Quinn continues to play well in practice and preseason games, given his age and role as a short-term option.
Moving away from the veteran would be a gamble for Belichick, but the Patriots also need to get younger at the position. He previously squandered a 2020 fifth-round selection on Justin Rohrwasser, who was dismissed in March after never playing a game. Why not go all-in with the young movement if Quinn wins the coaching staff’s confidence in the coming weeks?
Then then, maybe it’s too much to expect of Bill Belichick to start rookie quarterbacks and kickers.
Pro Football Reference provided all statistics. Spotrac provided all contract information.
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