Nine days after the final round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots have officially signed their rookie free agent class. The appropriate announcement was made on Monday, and did not include any real surprises: all eight of the players listed were already known to have agreed to join the team.
Nonetheless, pen has now been put to paper and the following eight players can now officially call themselves Patriots.
CB Devin Hafford: A sixth-year senior who spent his college career at Tarleton State, Hafford offers good size at 6-foot-0, 195 pounds. He had eight turnovers as a super senior in 2021 — six interceptions, two fumble recoveries — and scored one touchdown. Given the Patriots’ track record with undrafted cornerbacks, he will be a player to keep an eye on this summer.
P Jake Julien: A Canadian-born punter who spent five seasons at Eastern Michigan, Julien averaged 43.4 yard per punt across his career. The right-footer will join Jake Bailey as the only two punters on New England’s roster. He faces an uphill climb to beat out the former All-Pro but the economics work in his favor: his salary cap hit will be significantly lower than Bailey’s $4.1 million.
QB D’Eriq King: The Patriots announced King as a quarterback, and he played the position during his six-year college career at Houston and Miami. However, at 5-foot-9, 196 pounds, he appears to be a realistic candidate to make the move from quarterback to wide receiver upon joining the Patriots. He does have some experience in this area, as well: King caught 61 passes for 520 yards and three touchdowns in college.
LB DaMarcus Mitchell: A former running back at Southwest Mississippi Community College, Mitchell moved to the defensive edge upon his arrival at Purdue in 2020. In his two years as a Boilermaker, he registered 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. With New England comparatively light on the edge, he should get plenty of opportunities to prove himself.
DL LaBryan Ray: Playing five seasons at the University of Alabama under Bill Belichick confidante Nick Saban, Ray joins the NFL as a run-stuffer who recorded just six sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss in his collegiate career. He has some good length at 6-foot-5 but weighs in at only 284 pounds; he projects as depth option at the 3-/5-technique end spot behind Deatrich Wise Jr., Henry Anderson and sixth-round rookie Sam Roberts.
C Kody Russey: The 6-foot-2, 292 pound Russey spent his first five collegiate seasons at Louisiana Tech before transferring to Houston in 2021. He started 60 games across six seasons, and was second team all-conference as a super senior. The Patriots made some major investments along their interior offensive line in the draft, but Russey will get a chance to carve out a depth role.
S Brenden Schooler: Schooler has an intriguing background, having played both wide receiver and safety during his six-year college career. The 6-foot-2, 206 pounder had 55 career catches between stints at Oregon and Texas, and also registered 141 combined tackles. He projects primarily as a special teamer at the next level.
OL Liam Shanahan: A Massachusetts native, Shanahan returns home after two seasons at LSU. He began his college career at Harvard, where he started 30 games across three seasons and was named the team’s best offensive player in 2019. In Baton Rouge, he started 23 more games and was an all-academic team member for the Tigers in 2021. He projects to compete with Kody Russey for a depth spot along New England’s interior O-line.
The Patriots’ eight UDFA signings will join the team’s 10 draft picks plus any tryout players — Rhode Island’s Coby Tippett among them — at rookie minicamp later this week. The camp, which gives the youngsters a first close-up look into life in the NFL, is scheduled to take place at Gillette Stadium from May 13 through May 15.