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Patriots 2023 offseason preview: Defensive edge is in good hands, for now

Our position-by-position offseason analysis continues at the defensive edge.

NFL: New England Patriots at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

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 along the defensive edge.

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

Matthew Judon: The Patriots’ number one option on the edge was one of the most disruptive players in all of football in 2022. Judon, who was voted to his second Pro Bowl in as many years in New England, ended the season with 15.5 sacks and 42 total quarterback disruptions. He also forced a pair of fumbles and had one recovery, all while proving himself a durable player despite a heavy workload: Judon ended the season with 860 defensive snaps (76.1%).

Josh Uche: Uche started the season as an under-the-radar rotational option at outside linebacker. He ended it as one of the most productive pass rushers in the league. Despite only registering his first sack of the season in Week 8, the third-year man finished the season ranked 12th in the league with 11.5 takedowns. Playing primarily on passing downs in his 15 in-game appearances, Uche also registered a pair of forced fumbles.

Anfernee Jennings: A third-round draft pick in 2020, Jennings had a quiet first two years in the league. His 2022 campaign was not a breakout by any means but definitely a step in the right direction. He registered 27 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble — all while playing a career-high 343 snaps on defense (30.4%) and 165 more on special teams (36.1%).

DaMarcus Mitchell: Entering the league as an undrafted free agent, Mitchell found his way onto New England’s 53-man roster not due to his defensive contributions but his kicking game performance. Ending the year as a five-unit special teamer, he was on the field for 310 snaps in the game’s third phase (67.8%) and registered eight total tackles.

Ronnie Perkins (IR): The Patriots’ third-round draft pick a year ago did not take the field in 2022. While Perkins did see action in two preseason games and registered five combined quarterback pressures, he had to be sent to season-ending injured reserve ahead of late August’s roster cutdown deadline.

Position assessment

The Patriots got some amazing production from their edge group in 2022. Matthew Judon and Josh Uche both finished with more than 10 sacks on the year, which is not easy to do, and they were both a problem for opposing offenses. They also got some pretty solid play from Anfernee Jennings, who finally showed some growth in his third year.

Ronnie Perkins is still a big question mark, while DaMarcus Mitchell is primarily a special teamer, but the Patriots are pretty loaded at the position right now.

Offseason preview

As well as the Patriots’ edge linebackers played this year, you can never have enough talent at a position as important as this one, so it would make sense for the Patriots to try to improve it a bit this offseason. No major investments financial or draft pick investments are necessary, but it would not be a surprise if the Patriots brought at least one more guy in.

Additionally, they also might look at the players on their current roster for some contract work: Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings are both entering the final year of their rookie contracts, and are candidates for extensions.

At the moment, though, the Patriots’ edge group looks as follows from a contractual perspective:

  • Matthew Judon: $17.61 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2024
  • Josh Uche: $1.71 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2023
  • Anfernee Jennings: $1.39 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2023
  • DaMarcus Mitchell: $878,333 salary cap hit | Signed through 2024
  • Ronnie Perkins: $1.31 million salary cap hit | Signed through 2024

The group does not have any free agents this year.

Level of concern: Medium