When Kyle Van Noy left the Detroit Lions ahead of the 2016 trade deadline, he was considered a bust: despite being a former second-round draft pick and bringing an intriguing athletic profile to the table, he just could not earn the coaching staff’s trust in his first two-and-a-half years in the system. As a result, Detroit decided to send Van Noy and a seventh-round selection to the New England Patriots in return for a sixth-rounder.
Fast forward to March 2020, and you find the 28-year-old entering unrestricted free agency as one of the biggest names available at the linebacker position. After all, Van Noy flourished after joining the Patriots: not only did he help the team win two Super Bowls, he also established himself as a reliable defender capable of lining up all over the formation and making impact plays both in the passing game and against the run.
“That’s been the main topic for me: What’s your position?” Van Noy told NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo earlier this week. “But like I tell everybody, how good of a football player do you want? Someone who can do it all? I don’t want a position. I kind of view myself in the Tyrann Mathieu mold. Obviously, we play different positions but he’s a football player. I view myself the same way. I can play on the ball, off the ball, I can drop into coverage, I can rush the passer, I can do every single thing you want.”
While the Lions struggled to find a role for Van Noy despite his diverse skillset, New England moved him around wherever the team saw fit and thus helped him become a starter and leader on one of the league’s best defenses — one that is entering free agency with plenty of momentum on his side coming off arguably the best season of his career. Despite that, however, the Patriots have apparently not yet reached out to him about a new deal.
“It is interesting, but I’m going to be honest, I want to be a priority for a team and I feel I have to go where someone is going to make me a priority,” Van Noy said. “I’m sure New England knows that. If that opportunity comes, it comes. I’ll be frank, I don’t see myself waiting around. I’m pretty sure those guys aren’t going to wait around either. They’re really good at their craft. They’re at the top of the league at their position so it’ll be interesting.”
Van Noy added that the lack of negotiations between the Patriots and his camp might be due to the fact that quarterback Tom Brady is the team’s priority at this point in time — “I’m sure they’re waiting for Tom,” he told Garafolo. He himself appears to be ready to test the open market for the first time in his career, however, and might be a popular player due to the fact that numerous teams have close ties to New England.
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores was Van Noy’s position coach with the Patriots, while the Detroit Lions’ Matt Patricia coordinated the defense during the linebacker’s first one-and-a-half seasons in Foxborough. Add the new head coach of the New York Giants, former New England special teams/wide receivers coach Joe Judge, as well as front offices in Tennessee and Atlanta led by Bill Belichick protégés and you get plenty of potential suitors.
As a result, it would not be a surprise to see Van Noy’s tenure in New England come to an end after 62 games and two championships. If that happens, however, he will look back fondly on his time: “It’s pretty funny going from being hurt and playing a little bit in Detroit to making calls for the best team in the league. It was a big blessing. I’m happy about my time there. I hope it’s not done but business is business and it’ll be done as it goes.”