The Patriots made some seemingly boring but extremely practical moves on Wednesday, reaching a two year, $3.8 million extension with fullback James Develin and a four year deal with long snapper Joe Cardona. These moves won’t receive much attention, and will likely be grumbled about by members of the Boston media, but they are smart moves for New England.
Joe Cardona is a fourth-year player out of Navy and has been a consistently good long snapper for New England during his short career. Most people laugh at the idea of a long snapper being a position of importance; I would challenge any of those same people to attempt to shoot a perfect spiral backwards 12 yards through their legs while linebackers and defensive linemen rush in all around them. Cardona is a valuable piece, and the extension will not break the bank. It just ensures that the Patriots keep a high character leader in the locker room for the next four seasons.
Extending James Develin is a ridiculously underrated move for the Patriots for a few reasons. The first is that his value to the team is easily visible. Over the past four seasons, the Patriots total rushing yards were as follows:
2014: 1727 yards
2015: 1404 yards
2016: 1872 yards
2017: 1889 yards
Out of those four seasons, Develin was healthy for all but one: 2015. His presence has a huge impact on the running game. He is a fantastic lead blocker who has the speed to reach the edge quickly and the strength to take on anyone from a safety to a defensive end. He has also shown up in some of the team’s biggest moments. During the AFC Championship game this past January, the Patriots had the ball with a minute and a half to go in a third-and-nine situation. They ran the ball to the left side, and Dion Lewis got the first down and some to seal the game for the Patriots. Lewis receives much of the credit, but it’s Develin’s block on the edge that created a hole between the offensive tackle and the safety on the edge for Lewis to get through.
In addition, locking Develin in for the next few years is important because of two other key factors. The first is the trend of the league. The last decade or so has seen an explosion in high-flying, pass-heavy offenses. In response, defenses have begun relying more on smaller, faster linebackers who have better coverage skills. This gives fullbacks like Develin a definite advantage and gives the Patriots something they can exploit when they know that Develin can flatten an opposing team’s linebackers in the second level. The other key factor is the drafting of Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel. The Patriots clearly want to improve their running game, and what better way to do it than by having a fantastic fullback for Wynn to block alongside and Michel to run behind. Michel is not a particularly elusive back, relying more on hard bursts upfield through holes, which is exactly what Develin can create for him.
Develin’s numbers do not show up on the stat sheet. He does not earn fantasy points, or catch touchdowns (at least not often). But his value to the team is enormous, and his extension is a good thing for the Patriots future.
Until next time – B$