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2021 NFL free agency: Patriots lose linebacker Brandon Copeland to the Falcons on a reported one-year contract

Related: Patriots free agency tracker: News, rumors, signings, instant analysis

New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The New England Patriots made significant upgrades to their defensive front seven so far in free agency week. Not only did they invest a four-year contract into Matthew Judon, they also brought back fellow outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy on a two-year pact and signed off-the-ball option Raekwon McMillan for two years. The turnover does not end there, however.

As confirmed by his agency, JL Sports, Brandon Copeland will leave New England to sign a one-year pact with the Atlanta Falcons.

Copeland joined the Patriots during last year’s free agency, signing a one-year pact with the team. Between Weeks 1 and 7, the eight-year veteran was on the field for 60 of a possible 370 defensive snaps and registered 10 tackles as well as a pair of quarterback disruptions. Copeland was employed both on the edge and off-the-ball despite as a package-specific player rather than a true every-down linebacker.

The majority of his action, meanwhile, came in the kicking game: Copeland played 80 percent of special teams snaps before a torn pectoral muscle ended his season — and his Patriots tenure — after just six games.

His departure does not come as a surprise. Not only is Copeland coming off a season-ending injury, his impact in 2020 was also comparatively limited: he was solid in the kicking game, but provided only little value on the defensive side of the ball. Given that New England invested in Judon, Van Noy and Millan, and that youngsters Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings are part of the mix as well, a departure was the expected outcome.