Patriots Not Tendering Fullback Jakob Johnson Ahead Of Free Agency

Johnson now will be an unrestricted free agent

by

March 13

The New England Patriots could be in the market for a new fullback.

The Patriots will not place a tender on impending restricted free agent Jakob Johnson, agent Drew Rosenhaus told ESPN’s Adam Schefter and NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, setting him up to hit the market when the new league year opens Wednesday.

A native of Stuttgart, Germany, Johnson is one of the success stories of the NFL’s International Pathway Program. The 27-year-old played his way onto the roster as an undrafted rookie in 2019 and was the Patriots’ primary fullback for the last two seasons, appearing in every game in 2020 and 2021.

Though many NFL teams have phased out the fullback position, it’s been a prominent feature of New England’s offense, with head coach Bill Belichick valuing the schematic advantages a lead blocker provides. This season, only the San Francisco 49ers ran more plays out of 21 personnel (two backs, one tight end), per Sharp Football Stats. Johnson played 28% of New England’s offensive snaps.

The Patriots still could re-sign Johnson after he tests the market, but if they don’t — and don’t plan on radically altering their offense following coordinator Josh McDaniels’ departure — they’ll likely look for a replacement in free agency or in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Patrick Ricard of the Baltimore Ravens is the top veteran free agent available and likely will command a hefty contract for a fullback after making each of the last three Pro Bowls. Others include Andy Janovich (Cleveland Browns), Elijhaa Penny (New York Giants), Michael Burton (Kansas City Chiefs) and Alec Ingold (Las Vegas Raiders), who was not tendered by McDaniels’ new club.

NESN.com’s mock draft 1.0 had the Patriots using a seventh-round draft pick on Connor Heyward, a tight end/fullback prospect out of Michigan State.

Patriots tight end Dalton Keene, a former college H-back who missed this season with an injury, also could take on some fullback responsibilities if he stays healthy and makes the roster in 2022.

The Patriots placed a second-round RFA tender on wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, Rosenhaus told Schefter and Rapoport. The NFL’s legal tampering period begins at noon ET on Monday, with free agency officially opening at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

Thumbnail photo via Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports Images
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