The New England Patriots have plenty to consider this offseason, not only when evaluating outsiders as potential fits, but also when analyzing what in-house free agents to retain after the organization’s horrid 4-13 finish.

Edge defender Anfernee Jennings fits that exact profile, hitting the free agency market after three seasons with New England.

Jennings, 26, joined the Patriots as the team’s third-round selection (87th overall) in the 2020 NFL Draft, out of Alabama. But right out the gate, Jennings was hampered by some early-career injury complications, including a season-ender before the 53-man roster was finalized in 2021. That left Jennings to claw for time on the field as a backup role player.

Yet, after moving up the depth ladder and into a starter’s role with the Patriots this past season, there’s a double-sided case to be made for Jennings remaining and departing New England this offseason. Ultimately, it’ll be up to newly hired head coach Jerod Mayo and Jennings himself, however, in the meantime, let’s examine both cases:

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Having a roster consisting of several role-fulfilling players is critical for any NFL team, especially for the Patriots, therefore, keeping Jennings aboard doesn’t come with many negatives attached.

Teams across the league won’t just be lining up to improve their rosters, but specifically target players like Jennings. This will prove critical to the handful of revamps expected to go down just like in New England.

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Last season, Jennings recorded 65 tackles 1.5 sacks and 21 quarterback pressures through 15 games played, including 14 starts. Most notably, teammates noticed and acknowledged Jennings for his patience early on off the bench. After sitting out the first two weeks of the season as a healthy scratch, Jennings made his 2023 debut in Week 3 against the New York Jets.

“It’s part of the fun of the game, seeing guys take advantage of their opportunities,” ex-teammate David Andrews said in December, according to Mac Cerullo of the Boston Herald. “Especially a guy like Anf, who came in, dealt with some injuries early on in his career and is now getting an opportunity and really taking advantage of it.”

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Like many New England players who’ve come and gone, Jennings stuck with the program, trusted the process and finally found his footing despite navigating a few hurdles. Aren’t those the ideal characteristics and making of what the Patriots want in accordance with the team’s history?

It took Matthew Judon suffering a torn bicep during a Week 4 loss to the Dallas Cowboys for Jennings to make an appearance in the starting lineup.

Landing Jennings on a favorable, team-friendly deal would be a no-brainer, but the possibility of an outsider outbidding New England’s perceived dollar value on him is also in play. That’s where things get dicey for both sides.

Even if New England values Jennings enough to desire to retain the youngster, it’ll be up to the market where he goes. Last offseason, the Patriots found themselves in a similar situation with ex-wideout Jakobi Meyers, now of the Las Vegas Raiders, and elected not to budge.

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For New England’s defense and special teams, Jennings proved his value throughout 2023. Jennings disrupted quarterbacks on numerous instances, disrupting the pocket by using his instincts to his advantage. Then again, with a small sample size and early injury concerns, the market value leads Jennings and the Patriots to tricky territory, making a reunion far from a guarantee this offseason.

Featured image via Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports Images