Since the beginning of the week, the New England Patriots have already lost a half dozen free agents to teams now coached by Bill Belichick proteges. Not to mention QB Tom Brady has now officially signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
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It appears New England is set to make another addition on offense, this time addressing the fullback position. According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, the Patriots have agreed to a deal with former Green Bay Packers FB Dan Vitale, as reported earlier on Friday by NESN’s Meredith Gorman.
As Providence Journal beat writer Mark Daniels points out, this move could be an indication of the team’s outlook for long-time fullback James Develin, who spent nearly the entire 2019 season on injured reserve with a neck injury. In his absence, the Patriots utilized a rotational approach at the position, even pulling former LB Elandon Roberts over to the offensive side of the ball to chip in.
Vitale originally entered the league as a sixth-round pick (No. 197 overall) of the Buccaneers in the 2016 NFL Draft. Tampa Bay waived the now-26-year-old prior to the start of the regular season. He returned to the Bucs practice squad almost immediately following a week-long stint with the Buffalo Bills.
Vitale was later claimed by the Cleveland Browns where the 6’0,” 239-pounder played 24 games (9 starts) during the 2016-17 seasons. The fifth-year pro was later signed to the Packers practice squad after being cut midway through the 2018 regular season. Over the past two seasons, Vitale saw action in 20 games for Green Bay, including 15 in 2019. For his career, the Northwestern alum has been featured as more of a receiving threat than traditional fullbacks, totaling 15 receptions for 145 yards.
Given the versatility and athleticism Vitale has displayed throughout his career, it’s hardly surprisng that the Patriots have targeted the unrestricted free agent in the past.
Vitale is coming off of a two-year, $1.2 million deal with the Packers, which paid him a $720K base salary last season.
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