FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots announced the signing of free-agent safety Vinnie Sunseri on Sunday, so let's look at how Sunseri -- a 2014 fifth-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints who was released in April -- possibly fits:
Vying for core special-teams role: The 6-foot, 210-pound Sunseri entered the NFL with the reputation of being a strong special-teams player, and that's where his hopes with the Patriots begin. The safety position is one of the most solid on the Patriots' roster, with Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, and Jordan Richards all viewed as locks to make the team. With Nate Ebner set to open camp on a reserve list as he plays with the U.S. Olympic rugby team, Sunseri could potentially fill his spot. Second-year player Brock Vereen and first-year man Cedric Thompson are among his primary competitors for a potential fifth roster spot at safety (until Ebner returns).
Injuries have derailed Sunseri: In his final season at Alabama, Sunseri tore his ACL and was a medical exclusion from the NFL combine. In New Orleans, his rookie season was cut short after nine games because of a broken arm. Then last season, he missed the entire year after sustaining a knee injury in the preseason finale while covering a punt. So injuries have derailed his career at this point, and that is the primary reason the Saints released him in April.
Son of a coach and intangibles are considered a plus: Sunseri is the son of Raiders linebackers coach Sal Sunseri, and when projecting possible fits for the Patriots in the 2014 draft, he was identified as a late-round target because of his special-teams prowess and the way he served as a quarterback in Alabama's secondary. He has many of the traits the Patriots seek.