The New England Patriots are getting the band back together.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy announced Wednesday night that he’s re-signing with the Patriots after one year with the Miami Dolphins. He joins returning opt-outs Dont’a Hightower and Patrick Chung as well as new additions Matt Judon, Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson and Jalen Mills to help turn New England’s defense, which was a liability in 2020, back into a strength.
Here’s an updated look at the unit:
Defensive line: Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Deatrich Wise, Beau Allen, Byron Cowart, Carl Davis, Akeem Spence, Tashawn Bower, Michael Barnett, Nick Thurman, Bill Murray
Linebacker: Dont’a Hightower, Matt Judon, Kyle Van Noy, Chase Winovich, Josh Uche, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Anfernee Jennings, Terez Hall, Rashod Berry, Cassh Maluia, Brandon King, Michael Pinckney
Cornerback: Stephon Gilmore, JC Jackson (RFA), Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills, Joejuan Williams, Myles Bryant, Justin Bethel, Mike Jackson, Dee Virgin, D’Angelo Ross
Safety: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, Cody Davis
The Patriots could use another defensive lineman (perhaps a return from free-agent defensive tackle Lawrence Guy or Danny Shelton?). They also have two questions at cornerback: Will Stephon Gilmore be traded and will JC Jackson, who was tagged with a second-round tender, stick around as a restricted free agent?
Otherwise, the Patriots’ defense is loaded and deep with the additions of Judon, Mills, Godchaux and Anderson and re-additions of Van Noy, Hightower and Chung.
Van Noy can play either as a stand-up linebacker or edge defender. He moved all over the defense in 2016, 2017 and 2018 before primarily lining up on the edge in 2019. We’ll see how head coach Bill Belichick views Van Noy after the linebacker’s year away with the Dolphins. Hightower, Judon and Van Noy project as starters. Van Noy’s role, and whether he plays inside or outside linebacker, might be dictated by how well Uche, Jennings and Winovich progress in 2021.
Van Noy, who was traded to the Patriots from the Detroit Lions for a late-round swap back in 2016, reportedly signed a two-year deal worth up to $13.2 million, which is a steal one year after the linebacker joined Miami on a four-year, $51 million contract just to be cut after one season.
The Patriots re-loaded on offense, as well, signing wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, tight ends Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry and center Ted Karras and trading for offensive tackle Trent Brown.
New England went 7-9 in 2020 but could be positioned for a playoff run after all of the last week’s moves.
The Patriots could still look to upgrade at quarterback (Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Jake Dolegala) and running back (Damien Harris, Sony Michel, JJ Taylor and Brandon Bolden) in the upcoming months.
The free-agency party rolls on for now, however, as Belichick just keeps spending what seems to be a bottomless $60-million plus in salary cap space.