Patriots

Patriots

Each day, following Patriots training camp practice, we'll highlight one intriguing "long shot" to make the roster. What might that player bring to the table for Bill Belichick's club? Who's he competing with for a spot? And what does he have to do to make the club? 

FOXBORO -- Put yourself in Paul Turner's shoes. It's been over a month since the Saints released you. Training camps across the NFL have started, and two days into practices you get a call from the Patriots. They're releasing tight end Troy Niklas to bring you aboard.

On the one hand, great. It's an opportunity. The Patriots had a need for receiver depth in the short term with both Malcolm Mitchell and Kenny Britt missing time injured. Taking a longer view, they could potentially use another pass-catcher knowing they'll be without Julian Edelman for four weeks. 

On the other hand, the Patriots are into camp, they've completed spring workouts and held more than a dozen practices during what is essentially passing camp. They may still be installing, but there's plenty that's already been installed, already covered. It has the potential to be overwhelming for a receiver who hasn't played in an NFL game since 2016. 

That's where Turner is at the moment after being picked up Friday afternoon. The skinny on the former Eagle? He's 25 years old. He entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana Tech two years ago. He started that season on the Philly practice squad and then got bumped to the active roster in November. Turner played in four games, caught nine passes for 126 yards, and he was named the Eagles website's player of the week after hauling in six catches for 80 yards in a Week 13 matchup with the Bengals. 

 

He was released at the end of training camp last summer and reached an injury settlement (fractured scapula) with the team. Turner wasn't signed again until after the season when he got a future contract from New Orleans. The Saints let him go in June. 

Turner checks in at 5-foot-10, 193 pounds and, judging from his tape in 2016, has the ability to play both inside and out. Before the draft, he ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash -- not blazing -- but showed good explosiveness with a 39-inch vertical and a 130-inch broad jump. 

To have a true shot at making the roster, Turner may need the depth at the position to wither. If fully healthy, this would be a tough spot for any newcomer to crack. Turner also may need to make some noise in the kicking game, where he has experience as a kick and punt-returner. 

Chris Hogan, Matthew Slater, Phillip Dorsett, Kenny Britt, Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson . . . those are players who shouldn't be shaking in their spats because of Turner's signing. But could Turner help push the back end of the roster at a position group where the likes of Riley McCarron, Braxton Berrios and Devin Lucien round things out? Why not? 

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