The new NFL year begins Wednesday, March 16, and with it, the advent of 2022's free agent marketplace. Leading up to that first day, we'll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective, continuing with the defensive line.
PATRIOTS FREE AGENTS
OTHER NOTABLE NFL FREE AGENTS
Akiem Hicks (CHI), Calais Campbell (BAL), Folorunso Fatukasi (NYJ), B.J Hill (CIN), D.J. Jones (SF)
Maurice Hurst (LV), Hill, Jones
The Patriots paid a lot of attention to the defensive line last offseason, bringing in newcomers like Davon Godchaux and Henry Anderson, retaining Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise and Carl Davis, while drafting immediate contributor Christian Barmore.
It looked like the moves were paying early dividends during the team's mid-season win streak, but late season losses to the Colts (226 rushing yards allowed) and Dolphins (195 rushing yards allowed), as well as the loss to the Bills in the playoffs, in which the defense failed to force a single punt while allowing 482 yards of total offense, left plenty of questions about the entire defensive unit.
For 2022 most of the defensive interior returns, with the ascension of Barmore in his second season a topline item to watch. Guy, Godchaux and Wise should remain key rotational pieces, as the team could choose to ride it out with most of their pieces returning, including Byron Cowart who spent last season on the PUP list and Anderson, who is under contract to return after seeing a limited role in just three games in 2021 before getting hurt. Those returns could offset the loss of Davis, though Davis remains a cost-effective option who could fill a run-stopping rotational role.
There is good continuity along the defensive line, with a nice mix of vets and young talent. They're the only position group on defense that can say that.
That's a good thing because it's a thin free agent market, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the team take a flyer on a veteran or two. Hurst's local ties should keep him on the radar, even if he's more of a pass rusher, while B.J. Hill and D.J. Jones both fit similar profiles to Davis as run-stopping nose tackles who might offer some new upside.
Drafting another quality player would make sense with Godchaux only under contract for 2022 and Guy turning 32 this month. Finding a young, long-term complement for Barmore must be a priority. Someone like Georgia's Jordan Davis could fit the bill as a huge space eater who could free up teammates to make plays.