Travaris Cadet took 11 handoffs over three years with the New Orleans Saints.
His job wasn’t to do so.
Cadet’s job was to play special teams, to return kicks, and to catch passes. He did all three. And in doing so, he stayed around, long after the former undrafted free agent by way of Appalachian State, Pearl River Community College and Toledo was expected to.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound running back stayed around for 41 games. Not because he was Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson, Pierre Thomas or Darren Sproles. But because he was a serviceable roster spot built to be a little of everything. He was built to be reliable depth where needed.
Cadet illustrated that with 158 special-teams snaps, 15 kick returns, and 38 receptions over the final 15 games of his tenure with the Saints.
And now, as the 26-year-old begins his tenure with the New England Patriots, those same facets are where he factors in.
The third phase of the game is where Cadet left his first mark as a pro, entering 13 games during his rookie year while only garnering six touches on offense. He has since evolved elsewhere, but as a depth player who was a steady 46-man gameday active for New Orleans, those looks on the punt unit proved key.
Cadet has lined up as one of the gunners covering kickoffs. And while he isn’t expected to eclipse core special-teamers like halfback Brandon Bolden or captain Matthew Slater for a place on New England’s, there’s merit in having more than 11.
When Cadet was part of the 11, he recorded 12 special-teams tackles between his 2012 and 2013 seasons with the Saints.
Cadet has broken two kick returns for over 40 yards in his career. One of which, versus the San Francisco 49ers in 2013, went for 82 before he was knocked out of the bounds.
The likes of Jalen Saunders, Brandin Cooks and Robinson also spelled in as kick returners for the Saints last season, but Cadet remained the primary one, accruing 364 yards while averaging 24.3 per try.
Through his three NFL seasons, he’s collected a total of 1,293 yards on 50 kick returns, balancing out to 25.9 yards per run-back.
He will have company to run back another in New England, as the title of kick returner was receiver Danny Amendola’s in 2014. And 482 yards on 20 attempts for a 24.1 average and an 81-yard long were the byproduct.
But there has always been another venue for Cadet to compete in.
He’s been able to create personnel problems as a wideout-by-trade, not unlike Shane Vereen was able to do over his final two years with the Patriots.
Cadet is a less explosive, less elusive runner. Even so, he provided the Saints with another option to watch for behind Thomas. His 38 catches in 2014 arrived after he caught just two in 2013 and five as a rookie in 2012. And while he never led the Saints’ backfield in receptions, he had a role even before the longtime Saint before him was sidelined with foot and rib injuries.
It started small, and the Patriots remember it well.
One of Cadet’s 45 career catches went for a touchdown against New England in the fall of 2013, when New Orleans turned to a three-back set down on the goal line with Thomas next to quarterback Drew Brees, Sproles stacked right, and Cadet stacked left.
From there, No. 39 ran a pivot route underneath the coverage of corners Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington, tumbling into the end zone as New Orleans took a 7-3 lead.
A lot has changed since then for both sides. Cadet’s usage has remained similar, only it’s grown. He’s gone into motion after flanking Brees in shotgun, he’s gone into the slot, and he’s gone out wide with more proclivity.
In 2014, he did all those things while proving capable of doing things after it. He sold his breaks, and he proved to be adept threat with a variety of patterns in the process, whether it be the aforementioned pivot route, the quick out, the seam route, or the out-and-up.
Those types of glimpses parlayed 296 receiving yards. But the dependability in which he acquired them was perhaps more telling.
The only pass Cadet dropped outright last season transpired in Week 17.
His sure hands and route-running experience will continue to label him as a third-down back. Yet by definition, it would be remiss to label him one without looking at the situations he was called into.
Under Saints head coach Sean Payton, he was a yardage back.
When Cadet was on the field, it was more so due to the distance than it was the down. Including penalties and throwaways in his vicinity, he was targeted 53 times in 2014. But of those, 13 were on first down, 25 were on second down, and 15 were on third down. And in all, only 13 of those throws were from less than six yards of the sticks.
It was a high volume for Cadet, who was in the mix for a final tally of 182 pass plays last year, according to Pro Football Focus. Yet over those 182, it was clear he was in to catch the passes, not to protect for them.
As NESN.com’s Doug Kyed pointed out, he only did so seven times.
That is something to keep an eye on when accounting for the recent track record of Patriots pass-catching backs. But it doesn’t dismiss him. It doesn’t make him one-dimensional. Because at the root of Cadet’s makeup are several dimensions.
He may not be a running back in every sense of the word. He may just be utilized in more ways than most are.