clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Patriots 2024 offseason preview: Future of the defensive line comes into focus

The Patriots defensive line played some high-quality football in 2023.

New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

While only two teams remain left standing in the NFL playoffs, the New England Patriots embark on a franchise-altering journey through the offseason.

In multiple aspects, they are very much starting from scratch. Parting ways with head coach and quasi-general manager Bill Belichick after 24 seasons, the rebuild is impacting all levels of the organization — from the coaching staff, to the personnel department, to the roster.

To start our offseason coverage, we will take a look at that latter part and analyze New England’s roster one position at a time. What is on the table coming off the 2023 season, what might be in store for 2024, and where the strengths and weaknesses lie. Today, the series continues along the interior defensive line.

Position depth chart

Christian Barmore (24 | signed through 2024): Coming off an injury-riddled sophomore campaign, Barmore managed to take the next step in his development in 2023. The former second-round draft pick was a force in the middle of the Patriots defensive line, being his ever-disruptive self as a pass rusher and also playing his best football to date versus the run. Appearing in all 17 games, he registered a team-leading 8.5 sacks as well as a forced fumble, 52 run tackles, and 13 combined tackles for loss.

Davon Godchaux (29 | signed through 2024): With the exception of a fumble recovery, Godchaux appeared to be relatively quiet in 2023. Make no mistake, however: the veteran nose tackle was a big reason why the Patriots’ run defense was one of the stingiest in football last year. Godchaux proved himself an immovable, space-eating presence up front who helped free up others to make plays. There is not a lot of individual glory in a job like that, but the 29-year-old did it a high level.

Deatrich Wise Jr. (29 | signed through 2024): Wise Jr. has developed into one of the Patriots’ most steady players, and a valuable presence both as a starter-level defensive lineman and a team captain. In 2023, he had another quality campaign: lining up in multiple techniques up front, he notched 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble while also being a steady contributor versus the run.

Lawrence Guy Sr. (33 | signed through 2024): The team’s longest-tenured defensive lineman started his preparation for Year 7 as a Patriot in absentia: he held out of spring practices due to an apparent contract dispute. Guy was back for training camp, however, and went on to appear in all 17 games as a rotational early-down option. In that role, he registered 38 total tackles and was tied for fourth among D-linemen with 521 snaps.

Keion White (25 | signed through 2026): A second-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech, White also was on the field for 521 snaps — a significant workload for the rookie. While there were the expected ups and downs, the youngster did have plenty of encouraging moments in his first season against pro competition. All in all, he registered 26 tackles and only one sack; his 20 combined pressures, however, ranked sixth on the team.

Daniel Ekuale (30 | signed through 2024): The Patriots signed Ekuale to a new two-year contract during the offseason, but he suffered a season-ending injury just three games in. His torn biceps robbed the Patriots of a solid sub defender, who had registered a forced fumble and three tackles before he went down.

Jeremiah Pharms Jr. (27 | signed through 2024): Pharms Jr. was one of the surprise stories of the season for the Patriots. The former undrafted free agent, who had originally joined the club last summer and spent all of 2022 on the practice squad, appeared in 12 games and registered nine tackles as well as a fumble recovery. He didn’t play a major role — he was on the field for only 90 total snaps — but didn’t look outmatched despite his lack of experience.

Sam Roberts (25 | signed through 2025): A strong training camp performance allowed Roberts to make the 53-man team, and he remained there throughout the season. However, making the game day roster proved itself to be a challenge for the sophomore defender: Roberts appeared in seven games, and only once after New England’s Week 11 bye.

Trysten Hill (25 | signed through 2024): A former second-round draft pick, Hill began the 2023 season in Cleveland before joining the Patriots practice squad in October. He spent the rest of the year there without getting any in-game opportunities.

Offseason preview

There is plenty of reason to feel good about the Patriots defensive line heading into 2024.

Not only is the group coming off a collectively impressive season, it also features an intriguing mix of established talent and developmental talent. In addition, after signing practice squad member Trysten Hill to a reserve/futures pact, all nine members remain under contract for at least the upcoming season.

All of that being said, there are some questions for the group, starting with the coaching: DeMarcus Covington, who coached the defensive line the last four seasons, was promoted to defensive coordinator under new head coach Jerod Mayo. His former role working with the D-line was filled by ex-Green Bay Packers assistant Jerry Montgomery.

Beyond moving from Covington to Montgomery, there also is uncertainty surrounding the group’s longest-tenured player. Lawrence Guy, who has been with the team since 2017, already held out of the offseason workout program last spring before ultimately reporting for training camp. His age in combination with a $3.5 million salary cap hit, however, creates an unclear outlook.

Then, there is the Christian Barmore question.

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, the 2021 second-round draft pick is one of the Patriots’ best players and a realistic candidate to see an extension come his way. Will the team pull the trigger on locking Barmore up for the long term?

If so, the Patriots would have one key question addressed. Others await down the line as well: not only is Barmore scheduled to enter unrestricted free agency in 2025, fellow core linemen Davon Godchaux and Deatrich Wise Jr. as well as valuable sub pass rusher Daniel Ekuale are as well.

Given that all of them will be 30-plus next offseason, finding suitable longer-term options has to be on the Patriots’ to-do list as well. One of them — Keion White — appears to already be on the roster, but the jury is still out beyond him and Barmore.

As can be seen, New England’s D-line being one of the strongest areas on the current roster and not a major concern for 2024 does not mean there isn’t still work to be done as well. It all starts at the very top, with Christian Barmore.