Patriots

Quinn Nordin extends this crazy Patriots streak

Patriots

The streak lives.

The New England Patriots are reportedly going with Quinn Nordin at kicker over Nick Folk, which would make this the 18th straight season that an undrafted rookie has made the initial roster in Foxboro out of training camp.

The Patriots have had at least one undrafted free agent make the squad in every year since 2004 and in some cases, they have been able to find true game changers and develop them into top-tier players at their respective positions.

Not every player on this list has worked out and not all have been long-term options for the team. But the fact that the team has consistently been able to find undrafted contributors is impressive. Here's a look at every Patriots undrafted free agent to make the initial 53-man roster since the 2004 season.

2004: CB Randall Gay

After a strong collegiate career at LSU, Gay went undrafted in the 2004 NFL Draft. The Patriots scooped him up and he immediately had an impact on the team's secondary, emerging as a starter while recording 34 tackles, 2 interceptions, and 6 passes defensed for the squad. He led the team in tackles during their Super Bowl 39 victory with 11. He played four seasons with the Patriots as a nickel back and was solid, though the middle of his tenure with the team was marred by injuries.

2005: DE Mike Wright

Wright served mostly as a rotational player in the early stages of his career and started seven games in his first four seasons. In 2009, Wright emerged as a bigger contributor and put forth back-to-back 5-plus sack seasons as a part-time starter on the defensive line. He spent his whole seven-year career with the Patriots, recording 133 tackles and 15 sacks.

 

2006: OLB Pierre Woods

Woods played for four seasons with the Patriots and mostly served as a special teams ace. He tied for third in the NFL with 22 special teams tackles in 2017 and finished his Patriots career with 108 total tackles.

2007: QB Matt Gutierrez, LB David Herron

Gutierrez spent two years with the Patriots' organization, one as the team's third-string quarterback behind Tom Brady and Matt Cassel and one as the primary backup after Brady suffered a torn ACL. He completed the only pass of his Patriots career for 15 yards during his rookie year against the Jets.

Herron never played a down for the Patriots but did survive the cut to 53 in '07 and spent four years in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, and San Diego Chargers. 

2008: LB Gary Guyton

Guyton went undrafted out of Georgia Tech but emerged as a quality player for the Patriots. In his second season in New England, he started all 16 games for the team after Tedy Bruschi's retirement and logged 85 tackles and 1.5 sacks. He would post a career-best 3.0 sacks the next year to go along with two picks and 65 tackles. He played for the Patriots from 2008-2011 before fizzling out with four other organizations in the next couple of seasons.

2009: QB Brian Hoyer, S Bret Lockett

Hoyer emerged as the Patriots' top backup quarterback during his rookie preseason, beating out former third-round pick Kevin O'Connell, veteran Kevin Walter, and Matt Gutierrez for the job. He spent three years with the Patriots before bouncing around the league as a spot starter, logging a 16-21 record with 48 passing touchdowns and 30 interceptions. He returned to the Patriots as a backup quarterback as part of the Jimmy Garoppolo trade in 2017.

Lockett made the Patriots squad as a rookie but struggled to stay healthy, only appearing in 10 games during his NFL career.

2010: DT Kyle Love, LB Dane Fletcher, TE Steve Maneri

Love, the big-bodied defensive tackle, spent his first three seasons with the Patriots and was a solid starter during his second and third years. He recorded 65 tackles and 5.5 sacks during his stint with the team.

Fletcher was a great reserve linebacker for the Patriots, contributing as a backup, spot starter, and special teams option. His career was cut short due to a handful of injuries including a torn ACL that ended his 2015 season with the Patriots.

Maneri spent time with the Patriots during his first season but didn't play a down for them. He would return to the team in 2014 after stints with the Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears, but he never logged a catch for the Patriots.

2011: LS Danny Aiken

 

Aiken spent four years with the Patriots and snapped for them in all but one game from 2011-2014. He was replaced by Joe Cardona during the 2015 NFL Draft.

2012: RB Brandon Bolden, DE Justin Francis, DT Marcus Forston

Bolden quickly emerged as a special teams contributor for the Patriots while averaging 4.2 yards per carry and 7.9 yards per reception during his six years with the team. He had a brief, one-year stop in Miami but returned to the team during the 2019 offseason.

 

Francis and Forston only had brief stays with the Patriots. Francis spent the 2012 season with the team playing in 10 games and logging 3.0 sacks. Forston had a longer tenure, two years, but he only played in four games and made three tackles for the team.

2013: OL Josh Kline, OL Chris Barker, WR Kenbrell Thompkins, TE Zach Sudfeld, DL Joe Vellano

This was the Patriots' largest class of undrafted free agents in the past 15 years, as they signed five players. Josh Kline was a three-year starter for the Patriots at guard.

Elsewhere on the offensive line, Barker spent three years with the Patriots as a backup offensive lineman.

Both Thompkins and Sudfeld had great performances in their initial preseasons, and Thompkins' carried over into his rookie year when he logged 32 catches for 466 yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, Sudfeld was dubbed "Baby Gronk" as a rookie but had trouble living up to the expectations. He only spent three games with the Patriots before being waived by the team.

Finally, Vellano started for half of his rookie campaign and logged three sacks in two seasons with the Patriots. The former Maryland product did log 59 tackles for the team as a rookie, a very good number for a defensive lineman.

2014: CB Malcolm Butler

Butler is the best undrafted free agent on this list. He first made waves with his game-clinching interception of Russell Wilson in Super Bowl XLIX in which he jumped Ricardo Lockette's run in the slot on the goal line. From there, he developed into the Patriots' top cornerback. Over the next three years, Butler started 47 games, intercepted eight passes, created four fumbles, broke up 44 passes, and logged 159 tackles. His final moment with the Patriots -- playing just one snap in the team's Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles -- was certainly confounding, but he has continued to be a strong NFL cornerback since joining the Tennessee Titans in the 2018 offseason.

2015: C David Andrews, CB Justin Coleman, WR Chris Harper

Andrews quickly became the Patriots' starter at center after signing out of Georgia and has gone on to appear in 72 regular season games. After testing free agency in 2021, he re-signed with New England on a four-year deal that should get him to over 100 starts with the franchise.

Coleman earned a role as a backup slot corner for the Patriots and logged 29 tackles and eight pass defenses in his first two years in the league. He was traded to the Seattle Seahawks before the 2017 season.

Harper parlayed a great preseason effort with the Patriots into a roster spot, but he wasn't able to stick in the receiving corps. He found some success with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 (13 catches, 133 yards) but hasn't played in the NFL since then.

2016: DB Jonathan Jones, RB D.J. Foster

After a very strong career at Auburn, Jones went undrafted in the 2016 draft and signed with the Patriots. He performed well enough in the preseason to earn a job and has been a key role player for the team in recent seasons. He has played in 79 out of an 80 possible regular season games in five years and logged a career-high three interceptions, 1.5 sacks, and 56 tackles in 2018.

 

Foster proved to be a solid receiving back during his preseason action with the Patriots and made the initial roster. He only got eight touches for 26 yards in three games with the squad before being released.

2017: DL Adam Butler, OT Cole Croston, TE Jacob Hollister, LB Harvey Langi

Butler emerged as a steady interior pass rusher for the Patriots, amassing 15 sacks over four seasons before signing with the Miami Dolphins following the 2020 season.

Croston, an Iowa alum, appeared in five games between 2017 and 2018.

Hollister appeared in 15 games as a rookie for the Patriots and eight more the following season before finding himself with the Seattle Seahawks, catching 66 passes for 558 yards and six touchdowns over two seasons.

Langi only appeared in one game with the Patriots his rookie season after suffering injuries in a car accident. He was unable to make the team in 2018, wound up in New York and played two years for the Jets and is now back in Foxboro.

2018: CB J.C. Jackson

Jackson had a terrific preseason with the Patriots and earned a spot on the 53-man roster as their lone undrafted free agent in 2018. He was a key part of the Patriots' secondary rotation during his rookie season and showed off nice ball skills, grabbing three interceptions and six pass defenses in 13 games (five starts). He has the tools needed to be a quality starter and his performance was part of the reason that the team felt comfortable moving on from 2018 second-round pick Duke Dawson just ahead of 2019 roster cuts. In 2020, his nine interceptions were second in the league and with Stephon Gilmore out for at least the first six weeks of 2021, he'll get his chance as the team's No. 1 corner.

2019: WR Gunner Olszewski, WR Jakobi Meyers, TE/FB Jakob Johnson

Meyers earned a spot on the Patriots' 2019 roster after a strong preseason and made a notable impact, catching 26 passes for 359 yards in 15 regular season games after going undrafted out of NC State. He more than doubled that production in Year 2, catching 59 passes for 729 yards and looks poised to keep on improving in 2021.

Olszewski, who went undrafted out of Division II Bemidji State and got a call from the Patriots for a workout while he was digging a ditch, carved out a role as New England's punt returner in 2019, returning 20 kicks for 179 yards. One year later, he was named First Team All-Pro as a punt returner, leading the league in average yards per return with 17.3.

The Patriots signed the German-born Johnson via the NFL's International Player Pathway program, and he has gone on to carve out a role at fullback following the retirement of James Develin.

2020: RB JJ Taylor

Taylor played in six games as a rookie last year, carrying the ball 23 times for 110 yards. After a strong preseason in 2021, it looks like he'll have opportunities to continue to be a part of the stable of running backs in New England.

 

2021: K Quinn Nordin

It's almost surprising the Patriots haven't found an undrafted kicker to keep around through the years, given the value so many other teams have been able to extract from them. Having an All-Pro kicker in Stephen Gostkowski from 2006-19 was certainly a factor.

Nevertheless, Nordin is indeed the next man up for New England despite an up-and-down preseason in 2021, when he connected on 6 of 8 field goal attempts with a long of 50 yards and was 4 for 7 on extra points.