The New England Patriots signed free-agent wide receiver Bennie Fowler on Tuesday, filling one of three open roster spots on the team following Week 1.
Fowler will spend his fourth year playing professional football with the Patriots, having spent the previous three seasons playing for the Denver Broncos. The 27-year-old holds potential for filling out the wide receiver depth that the Patriots are lacking until Julian Edelman returns to the field in Week 5.
The Patriots only had three wide receivers on their roster– Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett–prior to signing Fowler and fellow wide receiver Corey Coleman.
Here are a few must-knows on the Pats’ newest acquisition.
He went undrafted in 2014.
Unlike most of the guys in the Patriots receiving corps, Fowler was undrafted out of Michigan State, though he was projected to be picked as early as the 6th or 7th round in the 2014 Draft. He spent five years as a Spartan at Michigan State University, redshirting his first year.
Despite going undrafted, Fowler signed a one-year contract with the Denver Broncos, but was later waived and re-signed to their practice squad. The wide receiver spent the 2014-15 season on the practice squad before signing a future contract with the Broncos in January 2015. Over the next three seasons with Denver, Fowler caught 56 passes on 104 targets for 698 yards.
His stats from Michigan are impressive.
As a Spartan, Fowler made his mark as a four-year letterwinner. He led his team in receiving yards both junior and senior year. Fowler was the game leader for receiving yards in the 100th Rose Bowl Game, with 97 yards on just two catches. He finished his career as a Spartan with 1,341 receiving yards.
Fowler’s stats improved drastically over the course of his four seasons playing at Michigan, despite battling a foot injury during his redshirt year in 2009 and again in 2011. When teammate Keshawn Martin was sidelined with an Achilles injury, Fowler naturally asserted leadership and assumed extra responsibilities in Martin’s absence as the season went on. Fowler was known as a “multi-dimensional threat” following the end of his redshirt-freshman year, and spent his remaining four years at Michigan proving it, something he’ll hopefully continue to do in New England.
He caught Peyton Manning’s last career pass.
As a wide receiver for the Broncos in 2016, Fowler played in Super Bowl 50 alongside veteran quarterback Peyton Manning. The Broncos beat the Panthers 24-10 after Fowler caught a two-point conversion pass from Manning, which ended up being the final pass of his career before retiring.
Fowler hasn’t even played an NFL game as a Patriot yet, but some fans are already speculating on the wide receiver sharing that same distinction with Tom Brady, should Fowler stick around long enough.
The Bears released him after preseason.
The Chicago Bears signed Fowler to a one-year, $1,000,000 contract in April 2018. He spent the off-season playing with the Bears, but was released in early September after a less-than-impressive preseason. He dropped two balls– one of which was a potential touchdown– in the Hall of Fame Game against the Baltimore Ravens.
He was a three-season athlete in high school.
Fowler played football, basketball and ran track at Detroit County Day School. His basketball team won a state championship in 2007 and in track, Fowler won the Oakland County 100-meter dash and a state long jump championship.
As a football player, being dynamic is crucial, but being a track star is a bonus. His excellence in the long jump event gives him unparalleled leaping ability while his familiarity with the 100-meter dash gives him a leg up over slower prospects. As a draft prospect, Fowler’s well-rounded athleticism pulled in his favor, earning him a 5.2 overall score from the NFL prior to the 2014 draft.