The New England Patriots usually dip their toes into the free agency waters by bringing in veteran players on minimum salaries. This offseason, they did a cannonball.
The Patriots finalized a four-year, $56 million deal with outside linebacker Matt Judon, according to multiple reports. Judon, a former Baltimore Raven, was one of the best edge defenders available on the open market.
The Patriots also agreed to terms on a four-year, $24 million contract with defensive back Jalen Mills, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN.
The Patriots came into the offseason with over $60 million in cap space, and evidently, they were ready to throw it around in free agency.
Judon, who plays on the edge as a versatile pass rusher, registered 50 tackles with nine tackles for loss, six sacks, 21 QB hits, two passes defended and one safety in 2020. He can rush the passer, defend the run and even drop back into coverage at 6-foot-3, 261 pounds. He’ll pair with fellow Patriots edge defenders Chase Winovich, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings to bring some stability to New England’s front seven.
Mills has the ability to play cornerback, in the slot or as a strong and free safety. He registered 74 tackles with four tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception, three passes defended and one forced fumble in 2020. Defensive back wasn’t thought to be a major need for the Patriots, but Jason McCourty is a free agent, All-Pro Stephon Gilmore either needs to be extended or traded and cornerback J.C. Jackson is a restricted free agent.
Smith has a rare combination of athleticism, big-play ability and blocking prowess at the tight end position, one of New England’s biggest offseason needs.
Godchaux was a three-down defensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins and fills a massive hole in the middle of the Patriots’ front seven, which lacked a space-eater in 2020.
These types of moves on the first day of the NFL’s negotiating period are extremely rare for Bill Belichick, but it’s also unprecedented for the Patriots to have this much cap space. New England went 7-9 last season, and Belichick is clearly motivated to give his team a major veteran boost this offseason.
Belichick also is putting his money where his mouth is. The head coach said the Patriots sold out for Super Bowls prior to 2020 and didn’t have flexibility last offseason because of the salary cap. They do now, and they’re using it to make notable improvements across the roster.
The Patriots should have more cap space left and aren’t done.
Maybe there’s a reason quarterback Cam Newton calls Belichick “Dolla, Dolla Bill.”