The New England Patriots are fully focused on the upcoming season 2022, with training camp already underway.
The team currently has only 87 players under contract. Only 53 of them will survive roster cuts in early September to make it into the active team. We will be looking at the men competing for these spots over the spring and summer to determine who is most likely to help the Patriots improve on their 10-7 record.
The series continues today with Josh Hammond, a third-year wide receiver.
The hard facts
Name: Josh Hammond
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 80
Age limit for opening day: 24
Size: 6-foot-0, 195 pounds
Contract status Contract through 2022 (2023 ERFA)
Which is his experience? Hammond was undrafted and became a free rookie agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2020. Spending his first two years in the league on the team’s practice squad, he received only limited opportunities to prove himself and has appeared in only two games thus far. The Jaguars eventually parted ways with him after the 2022 draft; Hammond went on to briefly join the Philadelphia Eagles and after waived again signed a one-year deal to participate in the Patriots’ training camp.
Before his time as a pro, Hammond spent four seasons at the University of Florida — proving himself a reliable pass catcher, who appeared in a combined 49 games with 31 starts. He was mostly a WR3 for a team with NFL talent. However, Hammond was able put up steady numbers with a total of 87 catches for 1,138 yard and six touchdowns. He also carried it nine times for 134 yard and two more scores.
How did his season in 2021 look? After having spent his entire rookie season on the Jaguars’ practice squad and without any in-game appearances — even preseason was canceled that year — Hammond did get another chance when he re-signed with the Jaguars on a one-year reserve/futures contract in January. Hammond had another chance to prove that he is worth keeping around. He wasn’t able fully to do so, but he remained in Jacksonville through his sophomore season.
Hammond was able to see most of his preseason action and took the field for 81 (37.3%) of 217 offensive snaps. Despite playing not even half of the Jaguars’ snaps during the exhibition portion of the schedule, he finished as the team’s leader in receptions (12) and receiving yards (124). Hammond was still released prior to the roster reduction deadline and later added to the practice team. He spent the rest of the season there, but was twice promoted to the game-day team.
These elevations were made before a matchup against the New York Jets in Week 16. Hammond was selected as a Covid-19 substitute and played eight snaps on offense. Hammond reverted and didn’t suit up against New England, but was flexed once again for the season finale against the Indianapolis Colts. Hammond was active in five offensive snaps and two in the kick game that day. After the season, Hammond did not register any statistics but was signed on to a futures deal.
What role is he expected to play? While his first two seasons in the NFL might not be fully reflective of his potential — his rookie year was disrupted by the Coronavirus pandemic while his sophomore campaign was spent under tumultuous circumstances caused by head coach Urban Meyer — Hammond still projects as little more than a depth wide receiver. Hammond is best described as a WR3-WR4 receiver. He can also offer depth at Z-receiver. Although he’s spent most of his time spread out wide, he also has the experience to move into the slot.
Is he able to move in any position? Hammond has played both in the slot and on the perimeter, as mentioned above. Hammond was also a ball carrier in college and averaged 14.9 yards for his nine rushing attempts. Nobody is going to confuse Hammond for Swiss Army Knife-type players such as San Francisco’s Deebo Samuel, but his experience playing multiple roles is still a plus.
What is the special team value? Hammond’s kicking game experience is somewhat limited, and he has received only a handful of special teams snaps since entering the NFL. The Jaguars did not use him in the game’s third phase last preseason before giving him a pair of snaps as part of their kickoff return unit in Week 18 versus Indianapolis. He was used by the Patriots to kickoff coverage and kickoff returns during their preseason opener against New York.
What is his salary cap situation The Patriots bought Hammond on a 1-year contract for $705,000. The deal is entirely funded by his base salary and has no guarantees. Accordingly, it is currently not counted against New England’s salary cap. Hammond would be eligible if he is on the 53-man roster in September.
Is it safe to have him on his roster? Given his contract situation and comparatively limited playing time in the preseason opener — he was used as WR4 behind Tre Nixon, Kristian Wilkerson and Lil’Jordan Humphrey — Hammond appears to be firmly on the roster bubble. Although he has some experience and positional flexibility he faces a steep climb to be able to challenge any of the other three for a spot in the practice squad or the active roster.
One-sentence projection: Hammond could be released even before the cutdown on Aug. 30.
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