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Patriots 2023 offseason preview: Not much work to do along the interior defensive line

Our position-by-position offseason analysis continues at the defensive tackle and end positions.

New England Patriots v New York Jets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Two teams are left standing in the NFL playoffs, but the New England Patriots are not among them. Finishing the regular season with an 8-9 record, they failed to qualify for the tournament and are already on to the offseason.

It projects to be an interesting one for the team. On the one hand, it is coming off a disappointing year that saw especially the offense fall short of its expectations — a fact that has already led to some changes on the coaching staff. On the other hand, however, the Patriots are among the league leaders in offseason resources and already have plenty of young building-block-type players under contract.

With all that in mind, let’s break down where the Patriots stand at this point in time by looking at each position individually. Today, we continue things at the interior defensive line.

Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Offensive tackle | Interior offensive line | Interior defensive line | Defensive edge | Off-the-ball linebacker | Cornerback | Safety | Special teams

Final 2022 depth chart

Deatrich Wise Jr.: Talk about a surprising development. Wise Jr. was a rotational contributor for the Patriots ever since his arrival in the 2017 draft, but he took a sizable leap in playing time and production in his sixth year in the system. A first-time team captain, he finished the season with a career-high 7.5 sacks and also forced a pair of fumbles — all while playing 829 defensive snaps (73.4%).

Davon Godchaux: One year after signing him to a two-year free agency deal, the Patriots extended Godchaux through 2024. He followed up the deal with a solid performance as a starter-level D-lineman. He only registered 1.5 sacks, but he was solid against the run and at occupying offensive linemen. Seeing action in all 17 games, Godchaux played 659 snaps (58.3%).

Lawrence Guy Sr.: Even at age 32, Guy continues to be a valuable member of New England’s defense. His number of big plays was relatively low in 2022 besides a pair of sacks, but he was a steady presence when healthy — playing 503 snaps (44.5%) over 14 games — and serviceable gap-occupier.

Christian Barmore: Coming off an impressive rookie season, Barmore was able to flash his immense talent and upside. However, a mid-season knee injury slowed down his trajectory: he missed seven games and as a consequence finished with only 2.5 sacks on the year. When healthy, though, he is a problem for opposing blockers.

Daniel Ekuale: Ekuale had to spend the first two games of the season on the NFL’s suspension list, but he eventually returned to serve as the nominal IDL5. With Barmore missing time due to injury, however, he was the next man up and therefore finished the year with 364 snaps (32.2%) as well as a pair of sacks.

Carl Davis Jr.: At 6-foot-5, 320 pounds, the Patriots are asking Davis to clog lanes up front and create opportunities for second-level defenders to shoot downhill. While that role limited his ability to make plays himself, he still finished the season with a sack and one fumble recovery.

Sam Roberts: A sixth-round draft pick out of Northwest Missouri State, Roberts spent most of the season on the sidelines. Usually a healthy scratch on game day, he only played in five games — including two that saw him line up exclusively on special teams — and registered two tackles.

Jeremiah Pharms Jr. (PS): After spending time in the Indoor Football League and the USFL, Pharms Jr. joined the Patriots in July. He spent the entire year on the practice squad without seeing any game action outside of preseason. At one point in November he was spotted working with the offensive line, but he finished the season in his usual position.

LaBryan Ray (PS IR): The 2022 rookie free agent was seen as a dark-horse candidate to make the active roster out of training camp, but he instead had to go to the practice squad. Ray spent the entire season there, including a multi-week stint on the practice squad injury list. He did not appear in any games.

Position assessment

The Patriots got contributions from a lot of players along their interior defensive line in 2022.

Among the more traditional tackles, Daniel Ekuale showed an ability to get after the passer and could command a bit of money on the open market. Davon Godchaux was solid, but not necessarily flashy, and Christian Barmore spent a lot of time injured; when he was healthy, though, he showed himself to be the force that we saw last year. Carl Davis was fine, but not what you would describe as a game-changer.

At the end spots, Deatrich Wise Jr. is the highlight. He has really come into his own and become a big part of what the Patriots do on defense. He’s solid against the run and is an effective pass rusher as well. The group’s elder statesman, Lawrence Guy, is a reliable player as well; he is maybe not the flashiest player, but consistently in the right place and doing the right thing for the Patriots defense.

The team also has some developmental depth in the form of Sam Roberts, Jeremiah Pharms Jr. and LaBryan Ray.

Offseason preview

The Patriots should make bringing back Daniel Ekuale a priority in free agency. They already have Davon Godchaux locked up, and Christian Barmore on a rookie deal, so having a third solid DT as a longer-term prospect would be nice. New England also needs a true NT like Davis, but getting someone else to upgrade the position might make sense.

There’s always room to bring in more players, but there isn’t a huge need to get a real playmaker, because you already have a few.

As far as the 2023 offseason is concerned, though, the Patriots currently have the following interior linemen under contract:

  • Deatrich Wise Jr.: $8.7 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2024
  • Davon Godchaux: $10.5 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2024
  • Lawrence Guy Sr.: $3.57 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2024
  • Christian Barmore: $2.32 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2024
  • Sam Roberts: $912,869 salary cap hit | Signed through 2025
  • Jeremiah Pharms Jr.: $750,000 salary cap hit | Signed through 2023
  • LaBryan Ray: $750,000 salary cap hit | Signed through 2023

Two members of the 2022 group, meanwhile, are headed for free agency:

  • Daniel Ekuale: Unrestricted free agent
  • Carl Davis Jr.: Unrestricted free agent

Level of concern: Low