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Patriots Face Roster Deadline For Defensive Lineman

Defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale, who served a two-game suspension to begin the 2022 NFL season, is set to rejoin the Patriots 53-man roster.

FOXBORO — The New England Patriots face an interesting decision on the roster status of a key member of their defensive front.

Defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale, who served a two-game suspension to begin the 2022 NFL season, is set to rejoin the Pats’ 53-man roster. The team received a roster exemption, which is set to expire on Wednesday, Sept. 21, which allowed them to temporarily keep Ekuale in the fold, without creating an immediate opening on their roster to accommodate him. As such, they must do so on Wednesday. 

The 28-year-old had been suspended by the league in June. The move went into effect at the end of August following a preseason in which Ekuale logged two tackles and one sack. As a result of his suspension, he missed the Patriots season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins, as well as their Week 2 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers

Ekuale originally entered the league as a rookie free agent out of Washington State in 2018. He spent his first two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, and his 2020 campaign with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ekuale signed with the Patriots’ practice squad in September 2021. Though he remained on the practice squad for the duration of the season, he was elevated to the game-day on multiple occasions, both as a standard elevation and a COVID-19 replacement.

As a result of these elevations, Ekuale appeared in seven regular-season games, and one playoff game in 2021. He saw 115 defensive snaps, while compiling six tackles, two quarterback hits and two sacks. Ekuale’s increase in playing time heading into the home stretch of the 2021 season indicates that he might be primed for a larger depth role at the position in 2022.

Ekuale’s work ethic and versatility caught the eye of his teammates and coaches as the 2021 season progressed— including head coach Bill Belichick, who offered the following thoughts on his performance late in the regular season:

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“Dan’s done a good job for us. He’s played in multiple situations and as he's gained experience, he's given us some good quality depth there.”

Having signed a futures deal with the Patriots earlier this year, Ekuale was expected to make a strong push for a roster spot in 2022. He was excited for the opportunity to remain in New England for the upcoming season, taking to social media to post a series of pictures hinting at him having signed a new contract with the Patriots.

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Despite Ekuale’s ability to make a strong case for a roster spot, he still faced significant competition at his position. Davon Godchaux, Christian Barmore, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr., Carl Davis and rookie Sam Roberts currently reside on New England’s current defensive line. The depth chart also contains Jeremiah Pharms Jr. and LaBryan Ray, via their practice squad.

The Baltimore Ravens visit Gillette Stadium for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff on Sunday, Sept. 25. 


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