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2024 Free Agent Forecast: Linebacker

The new NFL league year begins Wednesday, March 13, and with it, the advent of 2024’s free agency marketplace. Leading up to that day, we’ll examine the landscape from a Patriots perspective. Today, we analyze the linebackers.

Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson Sr.
Patriots linebacker Mack Wilson Sr.

Patriots Free Agents: Mack Wilson.

Notable External Free Agents: Frankie Luvu, Devin White, Josey Jewell, Devin Bush, Zach Cunningham.

Position Analysis: The Patriots will return their two stalwart off-the-ball linebackers in Ja'Whaun Bentley and Jahlani Tavai in 2024. Bentley played a career high with 91 percent of the defensive snaps in 2023, and he'll be just 28 as one of the captains of the defense. Tavai had a breakout year in his third season with the Patriots, and with 74 percent of the defensive snaps he saw the most action of his five-year career. Tavai's playmaking hit a new level in 2024 and he's emerged as one of the key pieces for the defense.

That duo is a good place to start, as the defense will also welcome Raekwon McMillan back into the fold. McMillan has been with the Patriots for three seasons but has spent two of them on Injured Reserve. Still, he's a potentially solid third option behind Bentley and Tavai, offering smarts and versatility.

Their lone free agent contributor is Mack Wilson, who emerged in a sub-package role in 2023, helping offset the loss of Matthew Judon with effective edge play in space. He set a career-high with 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, showing strides in the Patriots defensive system and a new skill set for the coaches to play around with. Wilson is set to hit free agency and has some overlap with fellow free agent Josh Uche. Wilson hasn't been shy about sharing his support for new head coach Jerod Mayo, giving him a solid chance to re-up with New England for the second straight year.

Patriots linebacker Josh Uche
Patriots linebacker Josh Uche

Given all of their other needs, it's hard to see the Patriots being overly active at linebacker in free agency unless Jerod Mayo and DeMarcus Covington are looking to make significant changes to their defensive system. Given Mayo's close involvement with the inside linebacker group, it's likely he'll look to build around the current starters, not blow it up and rebuild them.

However, there are some intriguing options set to hit the open market, headlined by Panthers linebacker Frankie Luvu and his 9.5 sacks since 2022 that are best for an off-the-ball linebacker.

Lavonte David and Bobby Wagner headline some of the older veterans in the free agent group, while Patick Queen, Jordyn Brooks and Devin White are all coming off their first contracts and still have long careers ahead of them. Veteran Josey Jewell could offer some versatility to the Patriots group as well, as more of a middle-of-the-road option.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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