Their free agency spending spree in March did not just see the New England Patriots bring in several big-name players from outside the organization, but also retain some of their best players. Among them was defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr, who returned to the club via a new four-year, $22 million contract.
Wise Jr. will therefore continue his career with the only professional team he ever played for. A member of the Patriots’ four-player draft class of 2017, he arrived as the 131st overall selection in the fourth round and has established himself as a valuable player since then.
The Arkansas product appeared in a combined 67 regular season and playoff games, and also helped New England win Super Bowl 53. Along the way, he registered 16 sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown — all while transformed his body to move from an edge role to that of a more traditional end in the team’s 3-4-based fronts.
Still, the lure of the open market was an attractive one for Wise Jr.
“The free agent market was kind of cool. Just hearing what people had to say, what their pros and cons were, what they saw me as,” the 26-year-old said during a media conference call on Thursday.
In the end, however, he stayed put and signed a new contract with the Patriots. What were his motivations behind that decisions? The monetary aspect obviously played a role, but as he pointed out so did the culture that head coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft have built over the last two-plus decades.
“One of the things that brought me back here was I just loved the atmosphere here, the culture here that Bill Belichick and Kraft and all the coaches and players have created. I feel like this place is second to none when it comes to the mindset and culture of success,” Wise Jr. said. “During the whole process, I ended up figuring out this was going to be the best place to come back to. I wanted to come back, and I’m happy I did.”
Keeping Wise Jr. in the fold was one of the moves made to help improve a defensive line that struggled at times against both the run and the pass in 2020. He will play a prominent role next year, as will fellow re-signee Lawrence Guy as well as outside additions Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson and, possibly, Montravius Adams.
New England later also traded up in the second round of the draft to pick Christian Barmore out of Alabama. The hope now is that the investments made up front will lead to improved play from the Patriots’ defense as a whole.
For Wise Jr, however, the focus is on the here and now: on building a team and getting it ready to play good football during the 2021 season.
“I feel like the only thing we need to do is continue to do what we always have done, and that’s our job,” he said. “No one coming here is going to be a one-man show. It takes 11 guys to make a defense, and if everybody does their one-eleventh, then that’s all we can ask for, and we can keep improving day to day, week to week and month to month.”