The Patriots signed former Raiders 2017 second-round pick Obi Melifonwu this week to bolster their secondary and special teams units for the rest of the season.
But the signing was also about next year, too. The Patriots signed Melifonwu to a two-year deal with $100,000 guaranteed for next season, according to NFL Players Association records.
Melifonwu, a 6-foot-4-inch defensive back with elite athleticism, will be with the Patriots during next offseason and training camp, with a chance to make the team. With cornerbacks Eric Rowe and Jason McCourty set to be free agents, Melifonwu could potentially give the Patriots another big, athletic cornerback to pair with Stephon Gilmore. Melifonwu could also be used at strong safety to cover tight ends.
A London native who grew up in Grafton and starred at UConn, Melifonwu was a highly rated prospect in the 2017 draft after putting together an impressive workout at the NFL Combine. But a hip injury limited him to just five games and seven tackles as a rookie, and this season he never suited up for the Raiders, leading to his release last month.
Melifonwu signed with the Patriots on Tuesday, and the Patriots sweetened the contract to ensure they got him. While Melifonwu will make minimum base salaries for the rest of 2018 (a prorated $550,000) and 2019 ($645,000), the Patriots guaranteed him $100,000 of his 2019 salary, and added a $25,000 offseason workout bonus, $30,000 bonus for making the team in Week 1, and $125,000 in per-game roster bonuses ($7,812.50 for each game active).
Melifonwu can make up to $825,000 next year, and his salary cap number is $795,000.
Melifonwu would have been an exclusive rights free agent after the 2018 season, meaning whichever team signed him would hold his rights for next year at a minimum salary. The fact that the Patriots added a few sweeteners to his deal shows that they value Melifonwu and had competition from other teams to sign him. But with only $100,000 guaranteed, he certainly has to earn a roster spot next training camp.