Under the terms of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, first-year players (non-rookies) with zero career pension credits remain eligible to participate in rookie minicamps.
As a result of that stipulation, six first-year players will be present later today when the Patriots kick off their rookie minicamp: LB/DE Markell Carter, QB Mike Hartline, RB Eric Kettani, K Chris Koepplin, LB Aaron Lavarias, and DE Alex Silvestro.
Here’s a quick-hit overview of each:
Markell Carter, DE/OLB: A 2011 sixth-round pick of the Patriots, Carter (6-4, 248) was cut at the conclusion of training camp last year and subsequently re-signed to the Patriots practice squad, where he spent the entirety of the season. He impressed enough to merit a big pay raise on his practice squad contract, an indication that he had an opportunity to sign with an active roster elsewhere, but the Patriots ponied up to keep him around.
Mike Hartline, QB: Hartline was signed by the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2011, and spent the first month of the season on the team’s practice squad before being released. At 6-foot-6, Hartline has very good stature for the position, and was a successful starter at Kentucky.
Eric Kettani, RB: The Patriots signed Kettani (5-11, 235) as an undrafted free agent out of Navy in 2009, and placed him on the reserve/military in July of that year. He returned to the team last season and started the year on the practice squad, before once again landing on the reserve/military list.
Chris Koepplin, K: Koepplin attended UMass and was with the Patriots last preseason. He was released and out of the NFL for the 2011 regular season, but re-signed by the team on April 16. He kicked for two seasons (2006-2007) for the Minutemen.
Aaron Lavarias, LB: Another undrafted free agent from 2011, Lavarias (6-3, 248) was a standout player at Idaho who spent the majority of last season on the Patriots' practice squad. He has some versatility because of his build and athleticism, and was re-signed by the team to a reserve/future contract on February 7.
Alex Silvestro, DE: Silvestro (6-3, 267) is probably best known as the player called up from the Patriots' practice squad on the eve of Super Bowl XLVI, the second time he was promoted to the active roster from the practice squad in 2011. He was not active for Super Bowl XLVI. Silvestro was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2011 out of Rutgers.