The first day of last month’s legal tampering period saw the New England Patriots address some of the biggest needs on their roster. The team signed Jonnu Smith to improve a struggling tight end position, added outside linebacker Matthew Judon to bolster the defensive edge, and brought Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne aboard as starter-level wide receivers.
Along the way, New England also added a hyper-versatile player to an already deep defensive backfield: former Philadelphia Eagles defender Jalen Mills was signed to a four-year, $23.9 million contract. Mills’ upside in the Patriots’ system is intriguing, but he does come with some questions — including a relatively deep medical history.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at the injuries he suffered over the course of his career to find out what it all means from the Patriots’ perspective.
2015 (LSU): Mills started his college career at LSU as a reliable player and appeared in 39 of a possible 39 games over his first three seasons in Baton Rouge. He had to sit out the first six contests of his 2015 senior campaign due to injury, however: Mills had fractured his fibula in practice and had to undergo surgery.
2017 (Eagles): After an injury-free rookie season in the NFL, Mills missed the season finale of his sophomore year as an Eagle after suffering an ankle injury the previous week. While he found himself on the practice report two consecutive weeks, he was ready to go for Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run after his one-game absence.
2018 (Eagles): Mills established himself as a starter early in the 2018 season, but a foot injury suffered in Week 8 versus the Jacksonville Jaguars changed his trajectory. Mills suffered a fractured fibula and ligament damage when a lineman rolled into his left ankle on the opening drive of the second half. He was unable to finish the game, was declared inactive for the next four contests, and ultimately placed on injured reserve in early December.
2019 (Eagles): The foot injury Mills suffered in late-October 2018 still bothered him heading into the 2019 season. He was placed on the physically unable to perform list ahead of training camp, and spent the rest of the summer as well as the early portions of the 2019 season on the sidelines. Mills did not return to practice until mid-October — almost a year after first sustaining the injury.
His injury woes did not end there, however. Mills also suffered an elbow injury versus the New York Giants in early December. He did return to the game and was listed as a limited participant the following week, but was eventually removed from the practice report ahead of the game versus the Washington Football Team.
One week after that game, Mills hurt his ankle in a bout with the Dallas Cowboys. He was subsequently declared inactive for the regular season finale versus the Giants, but did return to the field for Philadelphia’s first and only playoff game that year: Mills played all 60 defensive snaps despite having missed the previous week’s game.
2020 (Eagles): Mills almost made it through the 2020 season without missing time, but the Eagles placed him on the NFL’s new Coronavirus reserve list ahead of their season finale. Mills spent almost a month on the Reserve/Covid-19 list — meaning he was not allowed to enter the facility even as Philadelphia’s season had ended — before being reactivated in late January.
What this means for the Patriots
Mills has had his fair share of ailments since his senior season at LSU. He missed considerable time due to to separate foot injuries, and also suffered some minor injuries since joining the Eagles. While those have to be considered freak accidents more than anything else, they still likely impacted how Mills’ free agency market developed especially in 2019.
This year, however, was different: the Patriots apparently feel good about Mills’ medical record and gave him a total of $9 million in guarantees — including $6.5 million of full salary guarantees — as part of his deal.