While trading tight end Jonnu Smith and re-signing cornerback Jonathan Jones are dominating headlines so far on the first day of the NFL legal tampering period, they were not the only moves made by the New England Patriots. The team also re-signed veteran defensive tackle Carl Davis for another season.
The move is not necessarily a splash, but it certainly is a good one for the team. So, with that said, let’s find out what it means from a Patriots perspective.
The Patriots keep their nose tackle around. Davis was a role player for the Patriots in 2022, being on the field for 218 of 1,130 defensive snaps (19.3%). What exactly was his role? To serve as a big-bodied two-gapper anywhere from the 0- to the 3-technique spot, especially on early downs and in short-yardage situations.
In fact, he was New England’s primary nose tackle — a role he is well-suited to fill at 6-foot-5, 320 pounds. Re-signing Davis keeps that spot in able hands, and in turn allows the other D-linemen on the team’s roster to be used to their strengths.
The move is aimed at keeping the foundation intact — nothing more, nothing less. As noted above, Davis is a role player, and his contract will be reflective of that. This means a) that he is not necessarily guaranteed a spot on the 53-man roster this fall, and b) that re-signing him will not prevent New England from bringing other options in to align on the nose, either through free agency or the draft.
One defensive tackle remains unaccounted for. With Davis now in the fold for another season, the Patriots will turn their attention to the other interior defensive lineman on their roster headed for the open market: Daniel Ekuale.
As opposed to Davis, who is more of a run stuffer, Ekuale was used more as a rotational pass rusher the last two years. He too served primarily in a depth role in 2022, standing behind Christian Barmore, but like Davis has some value to the team. The question is whether or not the team views somebody like sophomore Sam Roberts as a potential replacement — a situation that differs from Davis’: he was very much the only true nose tackle the team had.
Davis is a candidate for the veteran salary benefit. As pointed out in Davis’ free agency profile, him returning on a one-year deal would not be a surprise. That has indeed happened, which means that the second half of our projection also might come true: him signing a deal qualifying for the veteran salary benefit.
If so, only $940,000 of his $1.17 million salary — plus 152,500 in additional compensation — would count against New England’s cap. The rest would be seen as a benefit, limiting his salary cap number to $1.09 million.