The Patriots are making a big change to their secondary.
New England plans to release veteran cornerback Jalen Mills, according to a report Friday from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Mills had two years remaining on the four-year, $24 million contract he signed in 2021. Cutting him will create just under $5 million in salary cap space.
Mills was a starting outside corner in both of his Patriots seasons, but he missed the final six games of 2022 with a lingering groin injury. He had two interceptions and 12 passes defended in 26 games for New England.
Advanced metrics weren’t kind to Mills, with his Pro Football Focus grade ranking 115th among 118 qualified cornerbacks this season.
The 29-year-old was viewed as a possible internal replacement for newly retired free safety Devin McCourty, especially after Mills tweeted this week that safety actually is his natural position.
Friday’s move leaves the Patriots with a cornerback group of Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, Myles Bryant, Shaun Wade and Quandre Mosely. New England re-signed Jonathan Jones — its other perimeter starter in 2022 — earlier this week and placed a right-of-first-refusal tender on Bryant, a restricted free agent.
Moving on from Mills leaves the Patriots with a worrisome lack of height and length at corner, which was a concern even before his departure. The three Joneses and Bryant all are undersized, and the taller Wade and Mosely played a combined 19 defensive snaps this season.
Bolstering this position group now must be one of New England’s top offseason priorities.