Next up in our New England Patriots free agent profile series: cornerback Johnson Bademosi.
Johnson Bademosi’s 2017 campaign will be remembered, perhaps unfairly, for his part in Bill Belichick’s confounding decision to bench Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII.
The Patriots adjusted their defense at halftime and inserted Bademosi into the game as the team’s third cornerback over Butler. Butler never saw the field, while Bademosi missed a key tackle on third-and-6 at the beginning of the third quarter of the 41-33 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
That game, and play, is an unfair representation of Bademosi’s at times up-and-down season with the Patriots. Bademosi was acquired from the Detroit Lions for a 2019 sixth-round draft pick and served as a key special-teams player before finding a role on defense during a three-game stretch while Stephon Gilmore was out with a concussion.
Bademosi played well during the stretch but then barely was used on defense until the Super Bowl. Bademosi also was a healthy scratch during the Patriots’ divisional-round win over the Tennessee Titans. He regained his spot on the active roster after fellow cornerback and special-teams gunner Jonathan Jones suffered a season-ending injury in the divisional round.
Let’s take a quick look at Bademosi’s 2017 season.
2017 stats: 29 tackles, pass breakup
Highlight of the season: Honestly, it was probably his flop in Week 17 against the New York Jets.
Beyond that, he had a solid three-game stretch from Week 6 to Week 8 while Gilmore was out with a concussion.
Chances of coming back: Somewhere in the middle. The Patriots could probably use a backup gunner with Jonathan Jones’ status up in the air for the beginning of the 2018 season. Matthew Slater, the Patriots’ best gunner, only has played 22 of a possible 32 regular-season games over the last two years.
But how much money are the Patriots willing to invest in a No. 5 cornerback and backup gunner who they felt was dispensable in a playoff game? Could one of the Patriots’ young cornerbacks serve that gunner role if Slater or Jones miss time?
Cornerback depth: Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, Ryan Lewis, Jomal Wiltz
Contingency plan: The Patriots need cornerbacks regardless of whether they bring Bademosi back or not. And while Bademosi played well while Gilmore was out, the Patriots won’t want to head into next season with him primed for a role on defense.
If the Patriots feel Cyrus Jones, Lewis, Wiltz or a rookie can be an improvement on defense while picking up Bademosi’s special teams snaps, then Bademosi could be on his way out in 2018. It’s not a great sign he was a healthy scratch in a playoff game.
Thumbnail photo via Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports Images