The new NFL league year begins Wednesday, March 15, and with it, the advent of 2023's free agency marketplace. Leading up to that day, we'll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective. Today, we analyze the edge players.
PATRIOTS FREE AGENTS: None
NOTABLE EXTERNAL FREE AGENTS: Robert Quinn (PHI), Brandon Graham (PHI), Yannick Ngakoue (IND), Jadaveon Clowney (CLE), Akiem Hicks (TB), Trey Flowers (MIA).
The Patriots return all of their edge players from last season, with Matthew Judon, Deatrich Wise, Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings serving as the primary defenders at the position. Judon has put together two-straight Pro Bowl seasons with the Patriots, while Wise had his best season yet in 2022 after signing a long-term extension with the team, producing 7.5 sacks. Uche also had a breakout season registering 11.5 sacks, while Jennings returned after missing all of 2021 to provide a physical edge presence, playing about a third of the defensive and special teams stops while filling more of a run-stopping presence.
However, both Uche and Jennings are due to hit free agency next season and Judon will be 31 in August, making edge a sneaky long-term need despite its strength heading into 2023. Two wild cards are Ronnie Perkins, a 2021 third-round pick who has yet to play a snap, and second-year primary special teamer DaMarcus Mitchell.
Attacking this position in free agency can be expensive and risky, and certainly based on the production the team got last season from those returning it stands to reason they might feel things could be even better this fall with that same core. After picking up 60 sacks in 2022 it's hard to really bang the table for a significant free agent addition to rush the passer, at least at the top of the class where there's plenty of familiar names that are over 30 and looking to cash in one final time like Robert Quinn, Brandon Graham and Jadaveon Clowney.
Former Patriot Trey Flowers appeared in just four games for the Dolphins last year but is still 29 and might be worth a flyer on. Yannick Ngakoue is still only turning 28 but has played with five teams already and has struggled the last two seasons. The Patriots could choose to pad their depth a bit with one of these kinds of reclamation projects, but even they won't come cheap.
With some interesting draft options ahead, continuing to add to the position group that way seems like it would make the most sense. There are significant needs around the roster, so the team doesn't have to overextend themselves in free agency at this spot. Perkins could be a wild card if he's able to finally get on the field and provide some needed depth but the clock is ticking in his third season.
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