The Patriots have signed fullback Dan Vitale per a report from Tom Pelissero of NFL Network in what might be an ominous sign for veteran James Develin who missed most of 2019 with a neck injury.
The four-year veteran Vitale spent two years in Cleveland after being drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 draft before playing the last two seasons for the Packers. Vitale was on our free agency radar and was a good fit after being a versatile running back at Northwestern that could do it all with plus leadership and toughness traits. He's served primarily as a fullback in the NFL, but could still have some untapped potential as a receiver that flashed at times in Green Bay.
The Patriots lost two fullbacks to injury last season and were left using linebacker Elandon Roberts as a lead blocker for much of the season. The dropoff in the run game without James Develin was significant after he helped lead the way to the Patriots sixth championship. This could mean that Develin will not be able to return from the neck injury that ended his season which would be a disappointing development.
The addition of Vitale should help Sony Michel rebound from a sophomore slump and gives the Patriots a versatile offensive player who can bring a needed element a new-look attack. We'll have to wait and see what Develin's status is, while second-year player Jakob Johnson is under contract to return as well to provide depth, but Vitale is a good fit and ensures the fullback position is well-stocked in New England.