New England Patriots

Getting to Know the New Patriots

Believe it or not, the Patriots have actually made additions to their roster this off-season

[NBC Sports] Breer: Brian Hoyer recognized the Rams' offensive scheme from his days with the Browns
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Enough about who’s left the Patriots.

Who has actually joined the team since the beginning of free agency?

While a steady string of departures headlined by Tom Brady has undoubtedly shaken the foundation of the team, Bill Belichick has quietly brought several players in to begin reshaping what New England's roster will look like as a new decade begins.

You won't find any household names among the newest members of the Patriots, a la its 2017 summer extravaganza. Rather, you'll find an unheralded group that will undoubtedly make an impact in its own right as New England tries to maintain control of the AFC East.

Tom E. Curran and Raul Martinez talk about former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's radio appearance and current Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham's future.

Here are the six acquisitions to date who have the best chance at contributing to the team this fall, listed in alphabetical order. All contract figures based on Spotrac.

Beau Allen, Defensive Tackle | Contract: Two years, $7 million ($2.75 million guaranteed)

You probably don't remember Allen as a central figure from Super Bowl LII, which the Patriots lost to the Eagles, but he was indeed out there for Philadelphia in its 41-33 win, playing 35 more snaps for the Birds than Malcolm Butler did for the Patriots.

Allen, a 6-foot-3, 327-pound tackle, registered half a sack and 10 total tackles last season in Tampa Bay as a rotational piece along its defensive front. He's in the same ballpark figure-wise as the departed Danny Shelton (6-foot-2, 345 pounds), who signed a two-year, $8 million pact with the Lions.

At 28, Allen has likely reached his ceiling as a serviceable backup. Not bad for a former seventh-round draft pick, but New England still has plenty of work to do up front.

Damiere Byrd, Wide Receiver | Contract: One year, $1.35 million ($600,000 guaranteed)

Despite their differing pedigrees, look at Byrd as a replacement for Phillip Dorsett. Playing for the Cardinals, Byrd set career highs in both receptions (32) and receiving yards (359), while Dorsett had 29 catches for 397 yards in New England.

A former first-round draft pick in 2015, Dorsett garnered just a one-year deal in free agency himself from Seattle and received less guaranteed money than Byrd, who went undrafted the same year.

Byrd, 27, spent the first four years of his career with the Panthers, totaling just 12 catches for 129 yards. Is last season's production a sign he's ready to break out?

Brandon Copeland, Linebacker | Contract: One year, $1,047,500 ($137,500 guaranteed)

Another former UDFA, Copeland has bounced around the league since entering it in 2013. Following two seasons on the practice squads of the Ravens and Titans, Copeland saw his first game action in 2015 with the Lions.

He joined the Jets in 2018, registering a career-high five sacks in 16 games and 10 starts, also the most of his career. Copeland was suspended for the first four games of the 2019 season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs before returning to play in 12 games and recording 1.5 sacks.

The signing of Copeland, a UPenn alum, gives the Patriots another Ivy Leaguer on the squad to go along with James Develin, if nothing else. His grandfather, Roy Hilton, played 11 years in the NFL, winning Super Bowl V with the Baltimore Colts.

Brian Hoyer, Quarterback | Contract: One year, $1,050,000 million

Hoyer needs no introduction, as he's back in Foxboro for his third tour of duty. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State in 2009, Hoyer backed up Tom Brady for three seasons before bouncing around the league to the Cardinals, Browns, Texans, Bears and 49ers before returning to New England in the middle of the 2017 season following the trade of Jimmy Garoppolo.

Hoyer remained on the team through the end of last training camp, when he was released in favor of Jarrett Stidham as Brady's backup, and spent the season with the Colts.

Now 34, Hoyer could be in line to make his first career start for the Patriots with Brady out of the picture. NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport speculated earlier this week that Hoyer would in fact be the team's starting quarterback, adding that the team could use a "premium pick" on a passer in next week's draft. Stay tuned.

Adrian Phillips, Safety/Special Teams | Contract: Two years, $6 million ($3 million guaranteed)

Of course the Patriots added a special teams ace just days after Brady's exit.

There's nothing not to like about Phillips' game, however. In addition to being a special teams standout -- he was First Team All-Pro in 2018 -- the former Charger routinely lined up in defensive sets at safety for San Diego/Los Angeles since joining the team as an undrafted free agent in 2014. Over the last two seasons, Phillips played in 66% of the team's defensive snaps.

Phillips, 28, could theoretically fill the void of both Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner in 2020. With Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel already in the fold, the Patriots now have three former All Pro special teamers on the roster.

Dan Vitale, Fullback | Contract: One year, $1.3 million ($100,000 guaranteed)

Insurance for James Develin? It's hard to figure out why else Vitale is here after spending the last two years in Green Bay. Vitale played in 17.2% of the offensive snaps for the Packers in 2019; compare that with Develin, who played in at least 30% of offensive snaps for the Patriots from 2016-18 prior to suffering a season-ending neck injury last fall.

Vitale, 26, was drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay but never played for the Bucs, spending two years with the Browns before headed to Wisconsin.

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