The New England Patriots have recognized Josh Boyce, Joe Vellano, Jake Bequette and Tavon Wilson for their efforts during the 2014 season, naming them practice players of the year.
The four were first honored in January.
The New England Patriots stand one week from the combine, one month from free agency, and less than three months from the NFL draft. That span will come with its twists and turns, but one corridor it could lead New England’s personnel department down is edge rush.
Four Patriots defensive ends registered sacks during the 2014 season. Rob Ninkovich logged eight of them off the left side over 1,040 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, while Chandler Jones logged six of them off the right side over 577 snaps. And when Jones was sidelined for six games with a hip injury, it was Akeem Ayers, a former 4-3 and 3-4 outside linebacker with the Tennessee Titans, who stepped in to log five.
Only now, the 25-year-old Ayers is slated to become an unrestricted free agent, and that may leave the 24-year-old Jones and the 31-year-old Ninkovich without a clear-cut running mate again in 2015.
The New England Patriots signed nine players to future contracts on Thursday, according to the NFL transaction wire.
The list includes quarterback Garrett Gilbert, wide receiver Jonathan Krause, offensive tackle Caylin Hauptmann, guard Chris Barker, defensive end Jake Bequette, linebackers Deontae Skinner and Eric Martin, as well as cornerbacks Daxton Swanson and Justin Green.
All nine finished the team’s Super Bowl-winning season as members of the practice squad. They are now joined by halfback Dion Lewis, defensive lineman Antonio Johnson and linebacker Rufus Johnson, who previously signed reserve-futures contracts on New Year’s Eve.