The New England Patriots made a move for a veteran cornerback ahead of their regular-season finale.
On Friday, the Patriots signed Dee Virgin to the 53-man roster. Virgin is expected to play special teams but it isn’t clear if he’ll be on the field on Sunday.
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The Book on Virgin
The 27-year-old Georgia native played under Bill Belichick’s disciples Bill O’Brien in Houston and Matt Patricia in Detroit. So the connection and familiarity are obvious.
Most recently, Virgin spent a short time on the Rams’ practice squad. The Patriots are pretty solid in the secondary at this point, though J.C. Jackson has struggled against elite receivers in spots. Still, Virgin could add some emergency depth there or potentially be in a position to replace a valuable member of the team’s current special teams unit.
Could Virgin Ultimately Replace Matthew Slater?
As big of a transition year as 2020 was for the Patriots organization, 2021 could be just as different. In addition to the potential for more turnover at the quarterback position, there is a chance the Patriots’ roster will be drastically impacted by retirements after this season.
The team had a league-high 8 players opt-out of the season because of concerns associated with COVID-19. Among those eight players (Matt LaCosse, Brandon Bolden, Dont’a Hightower, Marcus Cannon, Joe Vitale, Marqise Lee, Patrick Chung, and Najee Toran), there is at least a partial concern that Cannon, Hightower, and Chung could walk away from the game. Bolden has already stated his intentions to return.
In addition to the opt-out players, Patriots legend Matthew Slater openly discussed the possibilities of retiring after this season. Slater said he and his wife would pray on the situation and make their decision moving forward. If he does choose to walk away, it would leave a gaping hole in the special teams unit. Slater was chosen for his 9th Pro-Bowl team this season, which is the most in history for any player who has performed primarily in that role.
Virgin isn’t likely to be able to step in and do what Slater has done for more than a decade, but it’s time the Patriots start to look seriously at options. Perhaps Virgin plays a different role on special teams while another player who is already on the team slides into Slater’s spot in 2021.
Many would likely prefer Slater return, as it is clear he can still play at a high level. He stated he doesn’t want to play for another team. So we’ll see.
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