What Re-Signing Jabrill Peppers Means For Patriots’ Defense

The Patriots are returning three of their top four safeties


March 14

The Patriots are losing Devin McCourty to retirement, but the other members of their formidable safety group all will be back next season.

New England on Tuesday re-signed free agent Jabrill Peppers to a new two-year contract, according to multiple reports.

Peppers appeared in every game for the Patriots in 2022, providing versatility and eye-popping physicality as a fourth safety and core special teamer.

“Have you seen the guy? The guy looks like the Incredible Hulk,” special teams captain Matthew Slater said last November. “It’s muscles on top of muscles. So physicality’s an understatement when you talk about his game. He certainly embraces it, and the way he’s able to really roll his hips in short-area contact, whether it’s defensively or in the kicking game, it’s super impressive.”

A 2017 first-round draft pick who previously spent time with the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants, Peppers totaled 60 tackles and one fumble recovery in his first season in New England. He played 399 defensive snaps (35%) and another 269 on special teams.

The majority of Peppers’ snaps came in the box as a hard-hitting strong safety/linebacker (186), but he also logged 101 snaps in the slot, 42 at free safety, 41 on the defensive line and 28 as a wide corner, per Pro Football Focus. He graded out as PFF’s 16th-best safety and seventh-best in run defense, and the advanced stats service charged him with just two missed tackles all season.

Rounding out the Patriots’ safety unit are fellow veterans Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips, who have one and two years left on their contracts, respectively, and 2021 sixth-round pick Joshuah Bledsoe, who played sparingly in his first two pro seasons.

Cornerbacks Jonathan Jones, Jalen Mills, Myles Bryant and Marcus Jones also have experience at safety, giving the Patriots several possible replacement options for the departed McCourty. Jonathan Jones re-signed Monday, and the Patriots reportedly tendered Bryant earlier Tuesday.

There’s no obvious favorite to succeed the longtime free safety, however, and New England still could look to add to this group in free agency or the draft. As of Tuesday night, many of the top free agent safeties still were available, including Jordan Poyer, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Juan Thornhill, Julian Love and Duron Harmon.

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