The Patriots went big on the first day of free agency, locking up three new front-line defenders in an effort to overhaul their front seven while also bolstering a secondary already considered among the NFL’s best.
According to league sources, New England agreed to terms with explosive edge rusher Matthew Judon, mammoth nose tackle Davon Godchaux, defensive end Henry Anderson, and versatile defensive back Jalen Mills Monday, the first day teams were allowed to negotiate with impending free agents.
In addition, a league source confirmed defensive lineman Deatrich Wise agreed to a new deal — four years, maximum value of $30 million with $10 million guaranteed, according to an NFL Media report — to stay in Foxborough and the club announced it had inked defensive lineman Carl Davis, who, like Wise, was set to become a free agent.
The contracts will become official Wednesday when new league year begins at 4 p.m.
After signing Jonnu Smith, the top tight end on the market early in the afternoon, the Patriots went on the defensive, hitting several areas of need with an eye toward getting back to the postseason after going 7-9 in 2020.
New England’s front seven struggled at times last season, particularly against the run as it ranked 26th in rushing yards allowed per game. The club allowed 150-plus yards on the ground five times and lost all of those games.
The linebacking corps was stung by the free agent losses of Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Elandon Roberts and Dont’a Hightower’s opt-out. A league source confirmed Hightower is preparing to play in 2021.
Judon, 28, who played under the franchise tag in Baltimore last season, received a four-year, $56 million pact, including $32 million over the first two seasons. He has been a core member of the Ravens’ stout and physical defenses since entering the league as a fifth-round pick out of Division 2 Grand Valley State in 2016.
A 6-foot-3-inch, 260-pounder, Judon has collected 34.5 sacks over the last five seasons and is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl campaigns.
He projects as an outside linebacker and possesses the power to blitz and overwhelm pass protectors off the edge, the athleticism to drop in coverage, and the awareness to play the spy role.
Having Hightower and Judon gives the Patriots one of the hardest-hitting linebacker tandems in the NFL.
Judon posted a video on Instagram holding one of his children and announced, “New England here we come.”
The 6-3, 311-pound Godchaux has 179 tackles and three sacks in 52 games with Miami. Godchaux, who will receive a two-year contract worth $16 million with $9 million guaranteed, will get plunked right in the middle of the line and provides great insurance should Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler flee in free agency. He could form a formidable inside twosome with Beau Allen, who missed last season with lower body injuries.
“Happy but never satisfied!! More work to do!!,” Godchaux tweeted early in the afternoon.
Godchaux, 26, had an outstanding 2019, when his 75 tackles ranked second among all defensive tackles. His 2020 season was cut short by a biceps injury in October. He should be a full go for New England’s offseason program.
Anderson, 29, was a Colts third-round pick out of Stanford in 2015 and has spent the past three season with the Jets. His most productive season came in 2018 when he had seven sacks. The 6-6, 301-pounder agreed to a two-year, $11 million deal, NFL Media reported.
The 6-5, 275-pound Wise is a natural end who bumped inside more in 2020 after concentrating on becoming a run defender in addition to his pass rushing acumen. He made 49 tackles with 2.5 sacks and has 16 sacks in four seasons.
Terms of Wise’s deal weren’t immediately available.
Davis, 29, was signed off Jacksonville’s practice squad last October and played in three games before a November concussion forced him to injured reserve.
Mills, 26, landed a four-year pact worth $24 million, with $9 million guaranteed.
“Foxborough Let’s Run It!!,’' Mills tweeted.
Mills fits what the Patriots love in their safeties: The ability to play multiple positions in multiple schemes.
Mills, known as the “Green Goblin” for his choice in hair color, started his career as a cornerback but has shifted into more of hybrid defensive back role. Last season in Philadelphia, Mills played box safety, free safety, slot corner, and boundary corner.
The move infuses some more youth into what is one of the deepest and most versatile safety groups in the league, including veterans Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Adrian Phillips. Rookie Kyle Dugger quickly got himself in the mix last season as well.
Reaction was swift from current Patriots, many of whom tweeted the ubiquitous surprised eyeballs emoji.
Linebacker Chase Winovich tweeted “Oh baby,’' while offensive tackle Trent Brown, whom the Patriots traded for last week, wrote on Twitter, “Look like we out for blood.’'
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