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2018 NFL free agency: Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois to leave Patriots after only one season

The free agent will not return.

NFL: AFC Championship-Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One of the New England Patriots’ priorities this offseason has to be improving a defensive tackle position that was uneven in 2017 especially against the pass. The team will have multiple opportunities to do that over the next two months via free agency and the draft. Two players that will not be part of the process, though, are veterans Alan Branch and Ricky Jean Francois.

While Branch will reportedly hit the open market next month as New England will not exercise his contract option, Jean Francois announced today that he will not be back (per ESPN’s Mike Reiss):

I plan on continuing to play at the highest level. Hopefully I made a strong case for myself this past season. I did absolutely everything I could to help the Patriots during my short time there, and I learned that playbook immediately. It takes a special type of player and discipline to do that so quickly. My priority right now is to find a stable home where I can step in and make a similar impact for a few more seasons before I ride off into the sunset. … I’d like to thank Robert Kraft, Coach Belichick, Coach Patricia and the Patriots front office for allowing me to be a part of something that not a lot of players get the opportunity to do - play for the New England Patriots. Playing in Foxboro made me appreciate this game a lot more. Thank you to everyone there for giving me a great experience that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

Jean Francois had an up-and-down season in 2017. After starting it with the Green Bay Packers, the team released him twice during the regular season – the second of which set up his unification with the Patriots in early November, who themselves released him at one point but opted to bring him back. Overall, the veteran still appeared in nine games for the team and ultimately proved to be a solid in-season addition.

While the 31-year old’s statistics are not overwhelming, Jean Francois was able to establish himself as the number four option at defensive tackle behind Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler. In this role, he played around a fourth of possible defensive snaps during his time with the team and became visibly more comfortable as the season progressed.

Despite the improvements, however, the veteran will not be back in New England this year.