The New England Patriots’ initial practice squad will feature at least one player who played elsewhere this preseason.
Tavai, a 6-foot-2, 250-pound off-the-ball ‘backer, was considered a potential Patriots target ahead of the 2019 NFL Draft. He wound up going to Matt Patricia’s Lions early in the second round (No. 43 overall).
That was viewed as a reach at the time — most draft analysts had him pegged as a mid-round prospect — and Tavai made it just halfway through his rookie contract. Detroit waived him Tuesday during final roster cuts.
Tavai was one of Pro Football Focus’s lowest-graded linebackers last season (32.1), ranking 80th of 83 qualifiers. His 35.7 coverage grade was similarly lackluster. The 24-year-old Hawaii product was better as a rookie, posting a 61.3 overall grade and 61.1 coverage grade.
This move reunites Tavai with Patricia, who returned to the Patriots in an advisor role this offseason after being fired as Lions head coach. He’ll provide depth in an inside linebacker group led by projected starters Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley.