Revisiting the Patriots’ 2021 free agent class one year later
Contract: 4 years, $54.5 million
2021 statistics: 60 combined tackles, 12.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 25 QB touches, 1 fumble recovery
Matt Judon was a home run free agent signing. After making Pro Bowls in 2019 and 2020 with the Baltimore Ravens, he quickly became the heart and soul of the Patriots defense, as well as a team leader. He was also voted to the Pro Bowl in his first season in New England. The veteran linebacker was the most expensive player the Patriots signed last offseason, but he lived up to the hype, which had an immediate impact.
Contract: 3 years, $15 million
2021 statistics: 70 targets, 55 receptions, 800 yards, 5 TDs
Kendrick Bourne was a solid addition to the Patriots’ wide receiver room. Even after a slow start to the regular season, totaling three catches in the first two weeks of the regular season, he ended up playing a key role in Mac Jones’ success as a rookie. His 800-yard reception was a career high, but still second on the team behind Jakobi Meyer’s 866 yards.
In addition to making plays as a catcher, Bourne also made plays as a pitcher. In Week 7 against the Jets, Bourne threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor on the team’s first drive. Bourne and Jones will look to replicate their success in 2022, perhaps even giving Bourne his first career 1,000-yard season.
Contract: 2 years, $22 million
2021 statistics: 64 targets, 37 receptions, 473 yards, 3 touchdowns
Even after a decent start in Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins, Nelson Agholor was a bit of a disappointment last season. In that one-game week, Agholor caught five passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, for the veteran receiver, he wouldn’t have had a single game with more than 60 receiving yards. He is unequivocally the No. 3 wide receiver behind Bourne and Meyers. Agholor was supposed to be New England’s deep threat. Maybe he’ll bounce back in his second season after a full year in the Patriot’s playbook.
Contract: 3 years, $37.5 million
2021 statistics: 75 targets, 50 receptions, 603 yards, 9 TDs
Hunter Henry was an excellent recruit. As the season progressed, the former Chargers tight end became Mac’s favorite red-zone option. When the Patriots signed Henry, it was assumed he would fill the void left by Rob Gronkowski. Sure, Henry isn’t Gronk, but he did a great job in the red zone. In fact, he had a four-game touchdown streak from Weeks 4 through 7. Although at times he felt Henry could do more, his stat line matched his performance when he was with the Chargers. Short of injuries, there’s no reason to think Henry and Jones won’t lean on their chemistry in 2022.
Contract: 4 years, $50 million
2021 statistics: 45 targets, 28 receptions, 294 yards, 1 TD
Jonnu Smith was the first player the Patriots agreed to last offseason. The problem is that he never really seemed to carve out an attacking role. It felt like Smith often disappeared, but when he was targeted, it was forced.
The Patriots probably thought they were getting the touchdown threat he was at Tennessee, but he only recorded one touchdown all season. He had a career-high nine carries for 40 yards, but like I mentioned earlier, it felt like the Patriots were just trying to get him involved any way they could. The Patriots should anticipate improvement in 2022, considering they pay Smith like a tight top five and get production from a backup.
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Contract: 4 years, $24 million
2021 statistics: 47 combined tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 7 passes defended, 1 fumble recovered
Jalen Mills has proven to be an important signing, especially after Stephon Gilmore left mid-season. Mills split on the opposite side of the star corner JC Jackson.
He didn’t have a single interception last season, but he missed seven assists. Jackson got all the headlines and all the interceptions, but that’s largely because Mills did just about everything the team asked of him. There is no doubt that he exceeded expectations last year.
Kyle Van Noy
Contract: 2 years, $12 million
2021 statistics: 66 combined tackles, 5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, 7 QB hits, 1 INT, 1 TD, 10 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery
Van Noy returned to New England last spring after taking his talents to South Beach in 2020.
The eight-year veteran was one of the Patriots’ most complete defensemen, ranking second on the team in sacks. He was a playmaker under Bill Belichick and always found himself around the ball. If he wasn’t firing the quarterback, he was in the backfield racking up QB hits.
As good as Van Noy was in the two stints at Foxborough, the Patriots opted to release the two-time Super Bowl champion to free up $5 million in cap space. He was a fan favorite.
Contract: 2 years, $15 million
2021 statistics: 65 combined tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, 5 QB hits, 1 forced fumble
A four-year starter in Miami before coming to New England, Godchaux has been a solid veteran presence in the trenches. He started all but one game last season.
Godchaux didn’t always show up on the stat sheet last season, but when he did he really stood out. For example, in Week 11 against the Falcons, he had three total tackles, including two tackles for a loss and a sack. One of his best performances was against the Buffalo Bills in Week 13. It was the famous cold and windy game in which both teams were heavily loaded. Godchaux shone in the Miserable Elements, finishing with 10 total tackles and six solo tackles. He was a major factor in New England’s run defense.
Contract: 2 years, $7 million
2021 statistics: 3 total tackles (4 games)
Henry Anderson came from rival New York Jets. He only played a total of 35 snaps in the Patriots’ first four games before suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 4. He will have another opportunity to prove his worth next season as he agreed to take a pay cut to stay. in New England.
Contract: 1 year, $1.3 million
2021 statistics: N / A
After being one of the preeminent players for the Patriots during training camp last year, the former Raiders and Dolphins linebacker tore his anterior cruciate ligament during training camp. The good news? The Patriots signed the former 2017 second-round pick to a one-year extension. McMillan should be ready for training camp after missing the entire season.