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With the offseason workout program in the rear-view mirror and training camp set to kick off later this month, the New England Patriots are fully “on to 2022.”
The team currently has 84 players under contract, but only 53 of them will be able to survive roster cutdowns in early September and ultimately make the active team. Over the course of spring and summer, just like we have in years past, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots build on their 10-7 record.
Today, the series continues with veteran linebacker Harvey Langi.
Name: Harvey Langi
Position: Off-the-ball linebacker/Special teamer
Jersey number: 52
Opening day age: 29
Size: 6-foot-2, 250 pounds
Contract status: Under contract through 2022 (2023 UFA)
What is his experience? An undrafted rookie free agent out of Brigham Young in 2017, Langi started his NFL career with the Patriots and promptly made their 53-man roster. His first season in the league saw him appear in one game before he and his wife, Cassidy, were involved in a car crash in mid-October. The accident forced him to end his rookie campaign on the reserve/non-football injury list. Even though Langi returned the following offseason, New England eventually let him go on cutdown day 2018.
After a month on the open market he decided to take his talents to one of the Patriots’ division rivals, the New York Jets. Spending his first season as a Jet on the practice squad, he went on to appear in 30 games for the organization over the next two years and established himself as a valuable role player on both defense and in the kicking game. Despite his success, however, he was not tendered as a restricted free agent in the 2021 offseason, paving the way for a return to New England.
What did his 2021 season look like? Even though he saw regular action on special teams and was used as a part-time depth defender during his three years in New York, the Jets decided not to retain Langi heading towards 2021’s free agency period. The team did not place one of the three restricted free agency tenders on him, allowing him to enter the open market. The veteran remained there for a month before eventually signing a one-year, $1.06 million contract to return to the Patriots.
Langi failed to survive initial roster cuts despite a relatively active training camp and preseason, but he was brought back before the regular season opener versus Miami. He went on to appear in New England’s first seven games, playing 52.4 percent of special teams snaps (98 of 187) over that span as well as 3.3 percent on defense (16 of 479). However, in Week 7 — coincidentally versus his former team, the Jets — Langi suffered a sprained MCL that subsequently forced the Patriots to move him to injured reserve.
He remained on IR until December, when New England opted to have him return to practice and open his 21-day activation window. Langi did participate in practice for much of those three weeks, but also missed time after being sent to the Coronavirus reserve list. Ultimately, the Patriots made the decision not to activate him to their 53-man roster before the deadline; Langi’s year therefore came to an end on the sidelines. Prior to his season-ending move to injured reserve, he had some up-and-down moments.
Langi was used on four of New England’s special teams units — both the kickoff and punt return teams as well as the two coverage squads — and registered a pair of tackles, one in Week 3 versus New Orleans and one in Week 6 versus Dallas. He also had one run-game tackle on defense. However, he also appeared to be at least partially responsible for one of the three blocked punts given up by the Patriots last year; Langi did not block one of the Cowboys’ rushers in Week 6, crucially going for a double-team block instead.
What is his projected role? Based on how the Patriots used him in 2021 — which was a bit different from his first stint and time in New York — the belief ist that Langi will again be used as a special teamer first and foremost. That being said, he does offer some experience and theoretical versatility in the front seven as well. Accordingly, the 29-year-old will also serve as a rotational depth option at the off-the-ball linebacker position whose value lies primarily in the early-down game and versus the run.
Does he have positional versatility? Langi has experience at multiple positions along the defensive front seven, especially stemming from his time in New York. But while he was moved between box linebacker and edge defender on a somewhat regular basis as a Jet, the Patriots opted to use him more one-dimensionally in 2021. During the regular season, 14 of his 16 defensive snaps (87.5%) came off the ball — a continuation of his pregame usage, when he spent 95.3 percent of his defensive snaps in such an alignment. His versatility heading into 2022 therefore appears to be more theoretical than anything.
What is his special teams value? After seeing only limited action over the first two years of his career, Langi developed into a core special teams presence for both the Patriots and the Jets since 2019. In total, he therefore now has 622 kicking game snaps on his résumé while offering experience on multiple units. As noted above, New England trusted him on both return and coverage squads last year; additionally, he also saw action on place kick blocking teams during the preseason.
What is his salary cap situation? Langi was originally scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency in March, but the Patriots signed him to a one-year contract extension in January to keep him in the fold. The deal itself features a $1.04 million salary as well as a $75,000 signing bonus proration, $32,500 roster bonus for Week 1, and $17,500 in additional likely-to-be-earned active roster bonuses. The cap hit resulting from those numbers is only $1.02 million, though: only $895,000 of Langi’s salary counts against the cap because the deal itself qualifies for veteran salary benefit status.
How safe is his roster spot? The Patriots have not just re-shaped their linebacker corps this offseason, but also saw their special teams units see some movement through the departures of Brandon King and Brandon Bolden. Accordingly, there appears to be a clear path onto the team for Langi as a depth linebacker and core special teamer. Nonetheless, he will need to prove himself during training camp: Langi is still a roster bubble player when all is said and done, and the nature of his low-cost deal is a reflection of it. Unless he can perform well relative to other players trying to make the team through the kicking game, he could easily find himself on the outside looking in.
One-sentence projection: While the top of the linebacker depth chart appears to be set in stone, the personnel turnover on special teams will give Langi a chance to be on the 53-man team yet again come the start of the regular season.