Veteran special teamer Cody Davis will not be going anywhere. The 34-year-old, who has been a staple of the New England Patriots’ special teams operation since first joining the team in 2020, has signed a new contract with the organization.
Returning on a one-year contract, as was reported by former teammate Devin McCourty on Saturday, Davis will get another opportunity to prove himself. The questions now become a) whether he will be able to do that, and b) what this even means for the team. Let’s try to answer the second of these right now.
New England has made another investment in its kicking game unit. Several of the Patriots’ moves over the last week addressed the Patriots’ special teams group. Not only did the team re-sign Davis, it also did the same with Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson, Jabrill Peppers and Joe Cardona — all after already locking up Matthew Slater for another year earlier this offseason.
In addition, the team plucked arguably the best available special teamer from the open market; Chris Board was signed to a two-year pact to leave Detroit and come to New England. He too will help solidify a group that struggled mightily in 2022 and, among other miscues, gave up three kickoff return touchdowns.
The Patriots are feeling good about Davis’ recovery. Davis’ 2022 campaign came to an early end when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 6 against the Cleveland Browns. To the day five months after being sent to injured reserve, however, he has now signed a new deal with the Patriots — one that can be interpreted as a sign of optimism regarding his rehabilitation process.
Getting Davis back at a level close to his pre-injury self would certainly be a boost to New England’s kicking game operation. Not only did he play an important role on five units, he also generally performed at a high level:
Special teams contributions can be tough to pick out on the live broadcast— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) March 18, 2023
So here's a 2022 Cody Davis highlight reel where I had to leave out several plays for size despite the ace playing just 6 games pic.twitter.com/1W2asw5syj
Davis’ return has a trickle-down effect on the rest of the team. When Davis went down last October, Patriots special teams coordinator Cam Achord spoke about the team effort needed to replace him. That effort involved using Adrian Phillips as the new personal punt protector, giving DaMarcus Mitchell a role on the punt coverage team, and signing Raleigh Webb to help with the kick coverage, kick return and punt return units.
If Davis is able to return close to full strength and resume his former role as a five-unit player, these three men in particular might be impacted. In some cases that might be a positive for the player involved (e.g. Phillips), in others not so much (e.g. Webb).
The move has virtually no meaning for the safety position. While Davis is officially listed as a safety, fact is that the move does not address the team’s needs at the position in light of the Devin McCourty retirement last week. Yes, he does have plenty of experience playing the position, but since his arrival in New England has not received a snap on defense.
Between the regular season and playoffs — and even preseason — Davis has exclusively been employed on special teams. That will not change in 2023, even with McCourty gone.
Only six free agents remains for the club. With Davis returning, only six members of the Patriots’ free agency class are left unaccounted for. Running back Damien Harris and offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn are the highest-profile players of a group that also includes wide receiver Nelson Agholor, offensive tackle Marcus Cannon, cornerback Joejuan Williams, and punter Michael Palardy.
At this point in time, any of them returning would be a surprising development.