2022 Free Agency Part 3: Defense
In this final article in the three-part series on 2022 free agents, we'll focus on free agents on the defensive side of the ball from other teams. As a reminder, free agency begins March 16th and the deadline to tag players is March 8th (and teams have until mid-July to work out a long-term contract). Roster building for the defense could be interesting for the Patriots this offseason. Though by statistics the defense looked pretty good in 2021, there are still areas that need addressing. With a few of the linebacker group getting along in years, replacements possessing speed to cover tight ends, running backs, etc. remains a focus. Also, with J.C. Jackson most likely heading to a bigger contract elsewhere, finding defensive back replacements will be important. Will free agency be an approach this year to fill holes? As mentioned before, it'll come down to how the Pats open up cap space and who currently on the team may be released or traded.
It will be interesting if the Pats dip into free agency to find more edge talent. There are a number of well known names on the list, but it will come to affordability and priorities for the Pats.
Defensive line: https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/free-agents/all/defensive-line/all/
The Patriots hit a gold mine with Barmore in last year's draft and whether or not the Pats try to find some talent for upgrading the DL via free agency will be interesting to see. Again, interesting players fill out this list if the Pats are inclined to take a look.
Of all the positional groups on defense, linebackers will most likely see some turnover. Several (Collins, Hightower, Van Noy) are towards the end of their careers and it remains to be seen if the remaining players can fill the voids should any or all of them depart. This may be a position for which FA depth signings may also occur.
Like the linebacker position, there could be a fair amount of turnover in the secondary. Unless the Pats either re-sign or tag Jackson, finding a #1 CB will become a priority. I suspect the Pats will look at both the draft and free agents to find replacements as well as improve depth. The question is, however, who on this list might the Patriots pursue? Also do they try to bring back Devin McCourty for another year?
Special Teams: https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/free-agents/all/special/all/
Of course, when discussing the Patriots, one must at least touch upon special teams. Aside from trying to re-sign Folk, I don't see much activity here by the Pats. Of course, if Bolden, Slater, and/or others who are currently primarily special teamers do not return, signing low cost free agents to fill special teams spots is always possible.