Patriots Sign Free Agent DB Once Hailed as a ‘Best-Kept Secret’

Patriots signee Jaylinn Hawkins

Getty Patriots signee Jaylinn Hawkins

Sure, the Patriots’ free-agent signings have not exactly rattled the cages of opponents across the AFC, but in the absence of splashy moves, it makes some sense to just focus on smart signings that could have long-term benefits. The Patriots made another of those by inking safety Jaylinn Hawkins to a one-year deal this week.

Hawkins is not a star, but he has been a solid starter for most of his career. He was drafted in the fourth round by the Falcons in 2020 and earned the starting job in his third season, 2022. He played 92% of the team’s snaps that year and finished with two interceptions, six passes defended and 84 tackles.

The Patriots’ top two safety spots are set, with Kyle Dugger and Jabrill Peppers, but Hawkins will compete for playing time and a chance to show he’s worthy of a longer-term deal.

Jaylinn Hawkins Hoping to Get Career Back on Track

Hawkins does need to get his career back on track. Just two years ago, Bleacher Report declared him one of the “best-kept secrets” in the NFL. The site praised him by saying, “Hawkins showcased more of his potential last year.

“At 6’1″, 208 pounds, Hawkins can play the deep safety role or line up in the box to supplement the run, which bodes well for his chance at a full-time starting position.”

After starting 16 games in 2022, though, Hawkins was moved to a reserve role in 2023 and was waived in October. He was signed by the Chargers, though, and started three of his 10 games in L.A.

Hawkins has adjusted well to his role in the defensive backfield, considering he began his career in football as a wide receiver. It was not until he got to California for college that his position was flipped to the defensive side.

“In my head, I’m like ‘No way I don’t wanna play defense,”’ Hawkins said back in 2021. “I could play defense and everything like that because I’m physical and I like playing like that, but I’m like ‘I do not wanna play defense. I did not wanna go to college to play defense like no.'”

His father helped convince him to stick it out, though, and Hawkins was a fourth-round pick in 2020.

Patriots Land Veteran on Minimum Deal

His contract in New England, though, is not iron-clad. He will have to earn his way onto the team and will have to play well to stick beyond this year.

ESPN’s Mike Reiss reported that the Patriots signed Hawkins using the “veteran salary benefit.”

“Hawkins’ deal qualifies for the veteran salary benefit,” Reiss wrote on Twitter/X. “Assuming Hawkins makes the team, this means he would be paid a base salary based on his credited seasons (4), but count less on the salary cap.

“Career stats: 58 games, 25 starts, 135 tackles, 4 INTs, 1 FF. Hawkins is 26 and entered the NFL as a fourth-round pick of the Falcons in 2020 out of California.”

For the purposes of the Patriots’ salary cap, then, Hawkins will only count as $940,000, the amount a second-year player gets. But he will actually be paid $1.1 million on the year. It’s a low-risk gamble for New England.

The Patriots have more than $50 million in cap space remaining, the most in the NFL.


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