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Nora Princiotti

Ex-assistants Matt Patricia and Brian Flores stockpiling former Patriots

Dolphins coach Brian Flores added former Patriots Kyle Van Noy, Ted Karras, and Elandon Roberts in free agency this week.Adam Glanzman/Getty

Right now, there are more former Patriots on Matt Patricia’s Detroit Lions (8) than there are players who were on the roster when he was hired as coach two years ago (6).

Of the players the Patriots have lost in free agency, three — Kyle Van Noy, Ted Karras, and Elandon Roberts — have joined Brian Flores’s Miami Dolphins. Nate Ebner is reportedly signing with Joe Judge’s New York Giants. Jamie Collins and Danny Shelton are on that list of Lions, as is Duron Harmon, who went to Detroit in a trade on Wednesday.

In all, 25 players with Patriot pasts have joined up with Patricia, Flores, and Judge since they got their respective head coaching jobs and are still under contract (or about to be, pending physicals) with their teams.


Pretty much all these assistants-turned-head coaches knew nothing but success with the Patriots, so why wouldn’t they want to re-create that in their new locations? They’re also coaches who seem to prioritize “culture,” and they no doubt would want to acquire players who buy into how they want to run their programs. That’s easier to do with players you know operate well in similarly structured environments.

“We have our [Matthew] Staffords, those are your best players, those are your elite guys, those are your mainstays that you build around,” Patricia told the Detroit Free Press last month. “But you still have to have that foundation. And I’m not just talking about the foundation of the culture. I’m talking about the foundation of just developed players because you can’t buy it, you can’t do that. So that’s tricky for us this year, I think, to figure out.”

Matt Patricia and Jamie Collins will be reunited in Detroit.Winslow Townson

There’s just one thing missing: value.

Collins signed in Detroit for three years and $30 million with $18 million guaranteed. He’s a phenomenal athlete who for half a season last year was among the most impactful players on the Patriots’ defense.


Collins played for what wound up being $3 million after incentives in New England last year. The one-year contract included $250,000 in guarantees.

Van Noy signed in Miami for four years and $51 million with $30 million guaranteed. He’s set to earn as much, $12.75 million, per year with the Dolphins as the Patriots paid him for four years of service. He was an extreme-value player for New England, having been acquired from the Lions with a seventh-round pick in exchange for a sixth. The Patriots will probably get a high compensatory pick next year because of Van Noy’s departure.

Shelton made $1 million from the Patriots last year; he’ll get $8 million over the next two from Detroit. Karras made $720,000 from the Patriots and will get $4 million from Miami this coming season.

According to reports that have the Patriots getting a fifth-round pick for Harmon and a seventh-rounder, his trade is essentially a salary dump and nets Detroit a good player. Not all of these are top-of-the market deals. It just makes you wonder why, given the Patriots’ propensity to sit out the splashy part of free agency, teams that are so consistently interested in their former players aren’t interested in adopting that part of New England’s roster-building philosophy.

Kyle Van Noy is off to join former positional coach Brian Flores in Miami.Jessica Rinaldi

The best answer to that is probably that these teams haven’t been as successful as the Patriots. Bad teams move on from players and wind up with money to spend in addition to good draft picks. At some point, you have to spend the cash.


These are good players who deserve the money they’ve gotten. That, and the fact that those contracts go far further in limiting their new teams’ flexibility than theirs ever did for the Patriots, can be true at the same time. A shared love of certain traits — positional flexibility, size on the defensive line — can also explain some of the cross-pollination. But while these teams now have shared history with New England in the names that are on their rosters, they don’t seem to share a similar approach to free agency bargain hunting.

Nora Princiotti can be reached at nora.princiotti@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NoraPrinciotti.