The new NFL league year begins Wednesday, March 17, and with it, the advent of 2021's free agency marketplace. Leading up to that day, we'll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective. Today, we analyze the defensive line.
PATRIOTS FREE AGENTS
Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler, Deatrich Wise Jr., Carl Davis
OTHER NOTABLE FREE AGENTS
Dalvin Tomlinson (NYG), DaQuan Jones (TEN), Johnathan Hankins (LV), Larry Ogunjobi (CLE), Mike Daniels (CIN), Solomon Thomas (SF), Romeo Okwara (DET), Carl Lawson (CIN)
Dalvin Tomlinson (NYG), DaQuan Jones (TEN), Solomon Thomas (SF), Carl Lawson (CIN), Denico Autry (IND)
One of the most fascinating positions of the offseason, a year after losing Danny Shelton, a big chunk of the Patriots' interior defensive linemen are now due to hit free agency. Guy, a 2020 captain and member of the All-2010s Patriots team, is the biggest piece of the equation. Guy was asked to shoulder the load in 2020 and was their most consistent front seven player, but at 31, and after missing games for the first time in his Patriots career, the team will have to weigh Guy's long-term outlook. He should still be a good candidate to return.
Butler and Wise are younger and coming off the best seasons of their career, but both could be more highly valued in another defensive system where they could possibly expect to see more playing time. Both have made significant strides since their arrivals and it would hurt to lose either, especially on passing downs.
Davis appeared in only two games after he was signed from Jacksonville's practice squad, but his fit was clear. The 2020 defense could've really benefitted if he had been able to stay healthy. It wouldn't be surprising if they wanted to continue working with him.
After a lost year, Beau Allen should be back in the mix in 2021. Along with Byron Cowart, they should give the Patriots two solid pieces to build around. Nick Thurman and Bill Murray can provide depth as well, but there's no question the Patriots will need to make some big decisions along the defensive line in 2021.
New York Giants free agent Dalvin Tomlinson is an ideal fit for the Patriots defense. He's never missed a game for the Giants in four seasons and checks all the boxes in terms of size. Solomon Thomas of the 49ers is a former top-10 pick who never has quite lived up to expectations, but could be a versatile chess piece for the front. His fit is less clear, but he's a dynamic player who could be a value add and contribute in a number of different spots. The Colts' Denico Autry is a similar kind of mobile front seven chess piece, who doesn't really fit a traditional profile.
Along the edges, Carl Lawson is one of the best edge rushers in free agency and would give the pass rush a big boost, but he's another that's maybe not the best schematic fit and will come with a significant price tag. Romeo Okwara emerged in Matt Patricia's Detroit defense and with Patricia back in New England, he would know just how to employ the 25-year old out of Notre Dame.
The Patriots defensive front gives them some flexibility with who they might add, but it all starts in the middle where the team needs to restock whether they hang on to their own players or look to external free agency.