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Danny Vitale nearing free agent contract with Patriots, per report

The Packers will apparently have to look for a new fullback in 2020.

Oakland Raiders v Green Bay Packers Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

While the Green Bay Packers have spent the past few days re-signing depth pieces to their roster, it appears that one fan favorite from the last few seasons is headed elsewhere.

Following in the footsteps of such fullbacks as John Kuhn and William Henderson, Danny Vitale developed a bit of a cult following among Packers fans. Vitale, known as the “Muscle Man” in the locker room, has been a fun personality to follow since his arrival in Green Bay back in 2018. However, his time with the Packers is reportedly coming to an end.

NESN reporter Meredith Gorman is reporting that Vitale is nearing a contract with the New England Patriots for 2020:

Vitale appears to be joining a Patriots team that has featured the fullback more prominently than most teams in the NFL in recent years. While Vitale lined up on offense for a career-high 170 offensive snaps last season, that represented just 16 percent of the Packers’ total. The Pats’ previous fullback, James Develin, missed most of the 2019 season with a neck injury, but he was on the field for at least 250 offensive snaps each of the previous five years. Both players have also been significant special teams contributors as well in their careers.

Develin’s return from that injury is not assured, which may play into the Patriots’ decision to pursue Vitale. The 31-year-old Develin is under contract through 2020, but the Patriots could get out from the final year of his contract with minimal dead money should the team decide to move on from him.

The Packers could pursue a fullback in free agency or the draft to replace Vitale, but another option would be to further bolster the tight end position. Green Bay has used tight ends in the backfield plenty recently, with Jace Sternberger often lining up in that spot late in the 2019 season and Lance Kendricks manning that spot frequently in the two preceding years.