Will the trend continue? Five Lions players who'd make sense as future Patriots
When the Patriots went through last year's training camp without holding a single joint practice, it broke a long-standing streak. In six years, the Patriots had 11 joint practice opponents. All 11 opponents had at least one player who ended up signing with New England.
After taking on the Texans and Jaguars in the summer of 2017, we compiled a list of all the joint-practice opponents the Patriots had acquired going back to 2010 and we threw out a few names who were logical fits for the Patriots.
We hit on Ufomba Kamalu, who remains in the defensive end rotation on the Patriots' 90-man roster at the moment. But Kamalu was just one of five Texans who practiced against the Patriots at the Greenbrier in West Virginia two years ago who ended up in New England. Tight end Stephen Anderson (still with the Patriots), receiver Riley McCarron, defensive end Eric Lee and safety Eddie Pleasant all eventually ended up playing for Bill Belichick in some capacity.
There's a trend here, of course: The Patriots love signing players they've competed against in joint workouts, where they get an opportunity to watch how that player goes about his business for multiple days of practice and then a preseason game.
If that trend were to continue, which Lions might interest the Patriots should they become available? Here are five who make sense after the Patriots and Lions spent four days together this past week . . .
LOGAN THOMAS, TE
The Patriots have their share of issues at the tight end spot following Rob Gronkowski's retirement. Their top option, Ben Watson, will be suspended four games. Matt LaCosse had a nice down-the-seam grab in Thursday's preseason game but left limping. Ryan Izzo looks like a legitimate threat as a run-blocker but dropped a potential touchdown pass. If the Lions end up bailing on Thomas, a college quarterback who has bounced around the league since 2014, he'd make sense for the Patriots. He made a couple of nice plays as a receiver during his week of practice against the Patriots, and he's everything they like at that position in terms of athletic measurables. The Patriots "prototype" at tight end falls in the 6-foot-4 range and a shade over 250 pounds. Big hands (about 10 inches) are also preferred. Athleticism matters, too. Quick 40 times (4.7-second range) and three-cone drills (7.0-second range) could help a player find his way onto the Patriots roster, as will legitimate lower-body explosiveness (35-inch vertical or thereabouts). Thomas is 6-6, 250 pounds with about 11-inch hands, a 4.61 40, a 7.05 three-cone and a 35.5-inch vertical.
CHRIS LACY, WR
The Patriots actually signed Lacy as an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma State last spring. He was released soon thereafter to re-sign offensive lineman Jason King. New England's depth at the position and Lacy's abilities in the kicking game -- he stood out with his play as a gunner on the punt team this week -- might make him an interesting candidate to make his way back to Gillette Stadium.
TRE LAMAR, LB
Lamar (6-3, 253) is massive by today's off-the-ball linebacker standards in a league where size is less important than speed and agility to keep up with running backs in the passing game. That's not Lamar's game. He's bigger and slower than most. It's part of the reason he went undrafted this spring. But on first and second downs? He looks like he could be a thumper. The Patriots value that. They took Ja'Whaun Bentley a couple of years ago despite his perceived athletic deficiencies. Lamar had success at the highest levels of college football, and if he looks like a true 3-4 off-the-ball 'backer to Belichick, maybe he'll eventually get a shot in New England. We had the Patriots taking Lamar in one of our seven-round mocks this spring.
PJ JOHNSON, DT
Johnson is another player we identified as a potential Patriots fit before the draft. He was utilized all over the defensive line for Arizona, even occasionally rushing quarterbacks off the edge as a stand-up rusher -- at a whopping 6-4, 334 pounds. He was primarily -- as his size would indicate -- used on the interior. He might've been gassed at the ends of games at times, and he might've found himself on the ground more often than he would've liked, but when he got his hands inside blockers and used his length, he made some eye-popping plays. He was kicked out of a practice this week by Matt Patricia after getting into it with James Ferentz after a play, but having a little bit of an edge on that side of the ball isn't necessarily a bad thing. Players Johnson's size, as Belichick says, don't grow on trees.
JOINT PRACTICE OPPONENTS WHO BECAME PATRIOTS
2017 vs. Texans: DE Eric Lee (pictured), signed off of Buffalo practice squad in 2017; WR Riley McCarron, signed to practice squad in 2017; DE Ufomba Kamalu, signed to practice squad in 2018; S Eddie Pleasant, signed as a free agent in 2018; TE Stephen Anderson, signed to the practice squad in 2018.
2017 vs. Jaguars: OL Luke Bowanko, signed as a free agent in 2018.
2016 vs. Saints: WR Brandin Cooks, acquired in a trade in 2016.
2016 vs. Bears: TE Rob Housler, signed to a future contract in 2016.
2015 vs. Saints: DL Akiem Hicks, acquired in a trade in 2015; LB Ramon Humber, signed as a free agent in 2016; Cooks.
2014 vs. Redskins: DL Frank Kearse, signed as a free agent in 2016; CB EJ Biggers, signed as a free agent in 2016.
2014 vs. Eagles: CB Bradley Fletcher, signed as a free agent in 2015.
2013 vs. Buccaneers: LB Jonathan Casillas, acquired in a trade in 2014; TE Tim Wright, acquired in a trade in 2014.
2013 vs. Eagles: S Patrick Chung, signed as a free agent in 2014; WR Damaris Johnson, claimed on waivers from Houston in 2015; CB Bradley Fletcher, signed as a free agent in 2015.
2012 vs. Saints: RB Travaris Cadet, signed as a free agent in 2015; Casillas; LB Ramon Humber, signed as a free agent in 2016; DL Akiem Hicks, acquired in a trade in 2015.
2012 vs. Buccaneers: RB LeGarrette Blount, acquired in a trade in 2013; CB Aqib Talib, acquired in a trade in 2012; Biggers; LB Dekoda Watson, signed as a free agent in 2015.
2011: No joint sessions following NFL lockout.
2010 vs. Saints: Humber; DE Will Smith, signed as a free agent in 2014.
2010 vs. Falcons: WR Michael Jenkins, signed as a free agent in 2013.