According to ESPN's Field Yates, the Patriots have given linebacker Jahlani Tavai a two-year contract extension worth $4.4 million. Tavai is now under contract with the team through the 2024 season.
A 2019 second-round pick of the Detroit Lions, Tavai was cut following 2021's training camp and quickly signed with the Patriots practice squad shortly thereafter. He was elevated to the gameday roster twice early in the season before finally landing full-time on the 53-man roster in mid-October. He'd play 13 games in the 2021 season, playing just seven percent of the defensive snaps but emerging as a special teams contributor.
In 2022, Tavai has found himself in a growing defensive role for the Patriots, showing the kind of versatility and surprising athleticism that made him a Day Two pick and one that always had traits sure to intrigue New England's defensive coaches. With seven-straight starts under his belt and 38 total tackles with 1.5 sacks, his playmaking is also making an impact while he remains a core special teams contributor.
Coming into 2022 there were open jobs at linebacker following the departures of Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, and of everyone, Tavai has made the most of his opportunities.
"I think Jahlani [Tavai] has a few things going for him," said Bill Belichick earlier this season. "One, he's a pretty smart kid and he's played both inside and outside in college, and then with Matt [Patricia] in Detroit. So, when we got him last year, he had a lot of familiarity with our system and a lot of techniques with things that we did and so forth. Just overall, he kind of has that skillset that he can play on the end of the line, play off the line, has some pass rush ability, plays on all four phases of the kicking game. He's a pretty versatile player and can plug into a lot of different spots which is helpful, because not everybody can do that or has to be able to do that. But, somebody has to be able to do it. He kind of fits that. He's got good size, runs pretty well, got good playing strength, and he's smart."
There's little question that Tavai is the Patriots kind of linebacker and it's not surprising to see him earn this extension with his emergence this season. Having just turned 26 in September, he's got a lot of good football in front of him and should continue to play an important four-down role for the foreseeable future.