In a 2017 NFL draft that saw the New England Patriots make a franchise-low four picks, Derek Rivers became the first.
But the Youngstown State product would be waived Saturday amid a series of roster moves.
New England made that decision on both Rivers and second-year guard Hjalte Froholdt to make room for the return of running back Sony Michel and the promotion of inside linebacker Terez Hall.
Rivers, 26, spent two of his initial three campaigns in Foxborough on injured reserve. He suffered a torn left ACL on kickoff coverage during a joint practice with the Houston Texans as a rookie. And during an exhibition matchup with the Tennessee Titans in 2019, an injury to his right knee gave way to surgery.
In between was a Super Bowl LIII season spent in the background of a healthy depth chart.
Entering this fall, Rivers had appeared in seven games beyond August for the organization that filled out his card in the third round at No. 83 overall.
Yet the 6-foot-5, 250-pound outside linebacker made his way back to the field versus the Miami Dolphins in the opener. His first sack in 623 days followed as he took down veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the final quarter.
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Patriots head coach Bill Belichick described the strides from Rivers as “gratifying for everyone” the morning after the 21-11 win at Gillette Stadium.
“He’s really showed a lot of mental toughness, really an incredible amount of mental toughness over the last three years to deal with some of the setbacks that he’s had,” added Belichick. “None of which were really his fault. Just bad breaks, really. I don’t think he did anything wrong. It’s just, that’s football. But he never had anything but a positive, hardworking, competitive attitude. He did what he could do, and he rehabbed what he couldn’t do.”
Rivers, the all-time sacks leader at Youngstown State, went on to play in eight contests this season for the Patriots. And in a situational pass-rushing role off the edges in the company of John Simon, Deatrich Wise, Chase Winovich, Josh Uche, Shilique Calhoun and Tashawn Bower, he totaled four tackles and three QB hits to go with 1.5 sacks.
That role called for 86 defensive snaps. Of which, 26 had arrived since the calendar turned to November for a player with a limited volume against the run as well as on special teams.
Rivers, whose departure was first reported by Jeff Howe of The Athletic, carried a base salary of $735,000 and a cap number of under $975,000 in the last year of his rookie contract.
He will now go through the league’s waiver system. If unclaimed, the two-time Division I FCS All-American and three-time All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection would be a candidate for the practice squad.
That won’t be learned for Rivers or the Patriots until 4 p.m. ET Monday.
Source: Forbes – Business