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Analysis: Van Noy's release shines light on young LBs

The Patriots are moving on from veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

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The Patriots released veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy Monday night in a move that is projected to open up just under $5 million in cap space, which the team will need next week with the arrival of the new league year on Wednesday, March 15. Van Noy had returned to the Patriots after a one-year stint with the Dolphins.

Van Noy had a solid year after returning to the Patriots for his second stint, logging 66 total tackles, with five sacks and an interception against the Falcons that he returned for a touchdown. Van Noy was drafted in the second round by Detroit (40th overall), spending two-and-a-half underproductive seasons there before arriving initially in New England during the 2016 season via trade.

Van Noy would go on to win two Super Bowls with the Patriots and cash in during the 2020 offseason with a lucrative contract in Miami.

The release of Van Noy further detracts from a linebacker group that is eyeing some significant turnover this season. Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Ja'Whaun Bentley are also all free agents, as they represent some of the Patriots' most impactful second-level players of the last decade.

While Matthew Judon and his double-digit sack total are set to return in 2022, there is little proven depth alongside him, despite a collection of nine other players currently on the roster. Veterans Harvey Langi, Jahlani Tavai and Raekwon McMillan do have NFL experience, but a limited amount as full-time defenders as Patriots while the rest have mostly played part-time roles during their varied years with New England.

Without Van Noy, it puts a bigger spotlight on younger players like Chase Winovich, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings and Ronnie Perkins, with second-year player Cameron McGrone as well as Terez Hall, who missed all of 2021, factoring in as well.

While there's still free agency and the draft to go, those recent linebacker/edge picks should have every opportunity to seize new and sizable roles on defense this summer.

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