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Analysis: Despite Davis' return, DL could still be a draft priority

The re-signing of veteran Carl Davis gives the Patriots their entire defensive interior line back from last season, but it remains a position of draft intrigue.

Patriots defensive lineman Carl Davis Jr.
Patriots defensive lineman Carl Davis Jr.

On the final evening before the start of the NFL Draft, the Patriots made one last free agency signing by bringing back veteran defensive lineman Carl Davis. The defensive line had been one of the only positions not addressed by some kind of veteran addition this spring and after two years with the team, Davis makes plenty of sense to provide some depth and continuity, primarily as a nose tackle.

With his re-signing, the Patriots now have their entire defensive interior from 2021 back in the mix, which includes Lawrence Guy, Davon Godchaux, Deatrich Wise, Christian Barmore, and Daniel Ekuale. They're also due to welcome back Henry Anderson and Byron Cowart from injury to provide depth and further competition, but the position remains one that could be addressed over the weekend via the draft.

Jordan Davis of Georgia is an interior mammoth that put up otherworldly numbers at last month's Scouting Combine, while teammate Devonte Wyatt and UConn's Travis Jones are also excellent prospects who could crack the first round. It might be wishful thinking that Davis might fall to 21st overall, but if he did he's the kind of game-changer New England must consider, with Wyatt and Jones not too far behind.

Even beyond the draft's first day, there are intriguing options like Houston's Logan Hall or Kentucky's Josh Paschal who would fit in well with the Patriots and provide a needed jolt.

After the breakout rookie season by Barmore, there is a long-term piece in place at the position group but just Guy, who is 32, and Wise are under contract past this upcoming season. Overall, the group had their ups and downs during 2021, looking dominant during the team's win streak, but struggling against the better teams down the stretch, capping off the season with their worst playoff loss in recent memory.

Davis provides a level of insurance, but the defensive line could still use another infusion like Barmore gave them last season. A big, dominant space-eater who could take some pressure off the veterans or even improve on their contributions would be a big long-term boost for the defense.

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