Reminder: These Five Members Of 2021 Patriots Still Are Free Agents

including three 'Boogeymen'

by

April 7

The Patriots have re-signed a slew of their own players — seven, to be exact — who entered this offseason set to become unrestricted free agents. But, three weeks into NFL free agency, five members of New England’s 2021 roster remain without new deals.

Three of them are linebackers, and each is over 30 years old. The other two are a defensive lineman and a primary special teamer.

Here’s the complete list:

Dont’a Hightower, LB
Age: 32
2021 stats: 64 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks (15 games)
A likely future Patriots Hall of Famer, Hightower looked banged up and worn down as the season progressed. He still had moments in which he showcased his trademark physicality, but Hightower rarely was the difference-maker we saw during his prime years. If Hightower isn’t offered a contract to return to New England, it’s possible he decides to retire.

Kyle Van Noy, LB
Age: 31
2021 stats: 66 tackles, 5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 interception (16 games)
Released before the start of free agency, Van Noy is coming off a resurgent campaign after returning to the Patriots last offseason. He started slow and looked to be dealing with some sort of injury, but by mid-season, Van Noy was back to being his steady, productive (and underappreciated) self. Depending on the price, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he somehow ends up back in New England.

Jamie Collins, LB
Age: 32
2021 stats: 20 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception (10 games)
Collins signed for his third tour of duty with the Patriots after an early-season release from the Detroit Lions. His role was minimal and inconsistent for much of the season, but his playing time and productivity increased in the final quarter. He also provided one of the craziest interceptions you’ll ever see. Collins isn’t the player he once was, though he still can be effective in a sub-package role.

Brandon King, LB/ST
Age: 28
2021 stats: 10 tackles (16 games)
One of the better special teamers in the NFL, King played on 75% of special teams snaps in 2021, setting a new career-high. His bounce-back season was an underrated storyline, as the 28-year-old missed the previous two seasons due to injuries. However, given how much money the Patriots recently have invested in special teams, it’s possible that King becomes a budget cut. We’ll see.

Carl Davis, DT
Age: 30
2021 stats: 19 tackles (17 games)
Over his two seasons in New England, Davis established himself as a solid, dependable backup. He probably isn’t good enough to consistently start as an interior lineman, but he’s a valuable depth piece. The Patriots might target a tackle in the 2022 NFL Draft, and they have players such as Bill Murray and Daniel Ekuale set to battle for roster spots in training camp. Davis is a decent player, but also an easily replaceable one.


Ultimately, there are cases for and against the Patriots re-signing each of these players. Despite their ages, Hightower, Van Noy and Collins all are versatile linebackers who are familiar with Bill Belichick’s defensive scheme. There’s value in that, even as New England moves to get younger and more explosive on defense. You could make the same arguments for Davis, even though he plays a different position.

As for King, he’s a good, useful player despite his injury history. But he essentially has no role on defense, and it’s fair to wonder how much money the cap-concerned Patriots are willing to pay on a specialist.

Thumbnail photo via Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports Images
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