A year ago in a former life, I wrote that Dontrelle Inman should be a free agency target for the Patriots (read it here). Now that it has come to fruition, (hey every blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while!) I jumped at the chance to write about him when the opportunity arose, (once I had finished patting myself on the back).
The reason for my enthusiasm towards Inman is that I believe he is a diamond in the rough. Now by diamond in the rough, he isn’t going to challenge N’Keal Harry for the number one receiver spot, but he can be a solid contributor, and with a salary of $1.5m for one year, he is a very low risk signing.
Initially signed by the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in 2011, the Virginia alumni, has really had to work for every opportunity he had in the NFL. After failing to make the Jags roster, he went on the well travelled path of down on their luck NFL players to the CFL with Toronto. In two seasons with the Argonauts, Inman caught 100 passes for 1,500 yards and 11 Touchdowns. A fairly decent return that put him in the top 20 receivers in terms of yards and top 15 for Touchdowns and catches greater than 30 yards.
In 2014, Inman requested and was granted his release in order to walk the road less travelled from the CFL back to the NFL. He signed a futures contract with the Chargers and hasn’t really looked back since. A stand-out in his first pre-season, he stayed with the Chargers for 3 seasons, with the final season being a breakout year for the 6ft 3” receiver with 53 receptions for 810 yards and 4 Touchdowns.
After being given a second round tender by the Chargers in 2017, he had a very slow start to the 2018 season before he was eventually traded to the Bears for a conditional 7th round pick. Seemingly a bargain for the Bears, but quite possibly due to the core muscle surgery he underwent that offseason, 2017 ended up being a forgotten year for Inman. For an undrafted free agent coming from the CFL, you can ill-afford to have seasons like that. The Bears decided to let his contract run out and released him at the end of the season.
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Inman remained without a team until October 2018 until the Colts came calling. Signed effectively “off the street” on a veteran minimum deal, 2018 turned out to be a good season albeit in a limited capacity for him. Across nine games he managed 28 catches for 304 yards and 3 Touchdowns. One thing that stood out for his 2018 season, was that his catch per attempt went up by 10% to 70%.
So what are the Patriots getting from Inman? Well, they are getting a player in a similar mold to Brandon LaFell and Malcolm Mitchell. A large possession-style receiver, that also has the ability to go downfield. His height and build are very similar to LaFell, in that he is more lanky and gives up 30lbs to our latest first rounder in N’Keal Harry.
Whilst Inman has had a few tenured seasons at this stage as an NFL veteran, he has never had a big payday, with the largest yearly salary being the $1.65m the Bears gave him. If money is a motivator, he will be looking to prove himself once again so he can get another contract in the NFL. Considering that he is technically an 8-year veteran, he has spent a lot of time on the bench or in limited snaps, so he is a young 30 year-old health-wise. A point to note on this also is that he doesn’t really have any injury history outside of his core muscle issue in 2017.
I think you can gather that I am an Inman fan. I’m hoping he makes the roster, but he could be a boom or bust player. He could catch 40 balls from Brady or could be cut by the start of August. Realistically, you have Edelman, Harry and Slater as roster locks. After that it is wide-open. There has been a clear shift this offseason to bring in larger receivers, which may or may not be down to the success they had with Josh Gordon last season. In Maurice Harris, Demaryius Thomas, Jakobi Meyers and Inman the Patriots have plenty of competition for the larger bodied possession receiver. With Thomas’ injury, it could mean one of the guys above could get a chance to play to start the season. The word coming out of mini-camp and OTA’s is that Harris is currently in the lead but this could all change come training camp. Watch this space and hope for Inman!
Fun fact, during his time in the CFL, Inman was the emergency Punter and actually punted three times in one game. You know that Bill Belichick is aware of this fact.
-Luke O’Brien is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots. Follow him on Twitter @lukeobrienNFL