FOXBORO -- The Patriots are annually one of the busiest clubs when it comes to turning over the back-end of their roster. That process is ongoing and has been particularly noticeable at the tight end spot over the course of the last week.
Last week the team announced it had released tight end Michael Williams. On Wednesday, it was Rob Housler who was let go with a failed physical designation. On Thursday, the team added to the group, signing undrafted rookie free agent Sam Cotton.
Cotton joins a position group that includes Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, James O'Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel and fellow undrafted rookie Jacob Hollister. The 23-year-old played in 31 games, starting 23, during his four-year career at Nebraska. He caught 17 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns, including eight for 87 yards in 13 games as a senior.
At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Cotton was one of the more impressive athletes in this year's rookie class of tight ends. His 4.80-second 40-yard dash -- recorded at Nebraska's pro day -- was solid and would've ranked him 12th among tight ends at this year's combine. Some of his other numbers, though, were more outstanding. His 6.87-second three-cone drill would've ranked second among tight ends in Indianapolis for this year's combine. His 127-inch broad jump wouldn've been fourth, and his 35.5-inch vertical would've been sixth.
Cotton is now the third Nebraska product on the Patriots roster (joining Vincent Valentine and Rex Burkhead), and he's the fourth player to play under Bo Pelini. Third-round rookie defensive end Derek Rivers from Youngstown State is the most recent Pelini pupil as Pelini now serves as head coach of the Penguins.
Cotton's father, Barney Cotton, was a Nebraska assistant under Pelini and was let go with the rest of Pelini's staff following the 2014 season. Despite his father's departure from the program, Cotton decided to remain with the Huskers.
"I thought of all the guys here and how, if they see the coach's son jump ship when a new staff comes in, just how detrimental that could have been to the team," Cotton told the Lincoln Journal Star. "And I thought about all the guys and tried to set an example by staying.
"Whether or not that worked, I guess we'll never know, but I like to think that it was good for them to see the coach's son be able to stay and play for their dad's replacement."
Barney Cotton is now the offensive coordinator at UNLV.