The New England Patriots agreed to terms with 15 rookie free agents in the hours and days after the 2020 NFL draft.
De’Jon “Scoota” Harris would be the financial headliner among them.
The undersized, downhill Arkansas linebacker received a signing bonus of $15,000 and a total of $140,000 guaranteed from New England. Both figures, as detailed by Mike Reiss of ESPN, lead the way for an undrafted class that combined for $100,500 in signing bonuses and $920,000 in guarantees.
Defensive tackle Bill Murray out of William & Mary, running back J.J. Taylor out of Arizona and wide receiver Isaiah Zuber out of Kansas State also eclipsed the century mark when factoring in partially assured base salaries.
The price point reflects the market around the league more so than the depth chart in New England. But the track record remains.
The Super Bowl LIII active roster that defeated the Los Angeles Rams included 16 players who entered the league undrafted. Half of whom signed their first NFL deals with the organization. And that was on par.
A rookie free agent has made New England’s cut out of training camp in every campaign dating back to 2004.
North Carolina State’s Jakobi Meyers and Bemidji State tryout Gunner Olszewski continued the streak as part of the 2019 receiving corps. Maryland’s J.C. Jackson preceded them in 2018, and he now holds the rights to more interceptions than any defensive back drafted that spring.
Those three-year deals come due sooner.
A member of the 2017 group in Vanderbilt defensive tackle Adam Butler drew the $3.26 million second-round restricted tender this March. As for a speedy 2016 arrival, Auburn cornerback Jonathan Jones reached a long-term extension last September.
But before 2020, New England’s highest-ever guarantees under head coach Bill Belichick had been dispersed to BYU linebacker Harvey Langi and Texas tight end Andrew Beck. Langi, who was one of a trio of undrafted rookies to outlast the roster deadline three years ago, garnered $115,000. And Beck garnered the same last year before being claimed off waivers by the Denver Broncos on Labor Day.
It is a ticket to the race.
When circling back to the top-reported investment from each of New England’s past seven undrafted classes, four saw snaps beyond the preseason for the club.
The months ahead will tell for Harris.
The former SEC All-Freshman pick led the Razorbacks defense in tackles from his sophomore year up through his senior year. Harris started 36 career games in the middle over that span and checked into 48. He finished having tallied 371 stops, which placed fifth in program history, with 26 stops for loss. The NFL Scouting Combine invitee also registered 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and nine pass deflections.
Harris will find himself in a linebacker room that gained Michigan’s Josh Uche, Alabama’s Anfernee Jennings and Wyoming’s Cassh Maluia during the draft.
New England’s war room made 10 selections prior to working the phones for those trailing “Mr. Irrelevant.”
Also signed were a pair of quarterbacks in Louisiana Tech’s J’Mar Smith and Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke, plus Boston College tight end Jake Burt and wideouts in Auburn’s Will Hastings, Syracuse’s Sean Riley and Miami’s Jeff Thomas. On the defensive side of the ball, Louisiana Tech’s Courtney Wallace, Auburn’s Nick Coe, Ohio State’s Rashod Berry and San Diego State’s Kyahva Tezino landed in the front seven. Washington’s Myles Bryant followed in the secondary.
Their guaranteed UDFA dollars would range from $85,000 to $2,500.