James Develin agrees to 2-year deal with Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Getting a head start on free agency on Thursday, the New England Patriots have agreed to a two-year deal with fullback James Develin to return to the club.

He received congratulations from the company that represents him in negotiations, EnterSports Management.

Develin was scheduled to become a restricted free agent.

The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Develin had missed the 2015 season with a broken leg but returned to play in every game in 2016. In the on-field celebration following the Patriots' Super Bowl LI victory, coach Bill Belichick told Develin that he brings toughness to the team.

Develin's primary contributions came as a lead blocker and on special teams. His usage on offense increased after the Patriots lost tight end Rob Gronkowski to a back injury in late November.

Develin, who turns 29 on July 23, has been with the Patriots since 2012, when he initially joined their practice squad. He is a graduate of Brown University, where he played on the defensive line.