Better or Worse: Breaking Down the Patriots Defense By Position

The New England Patriots have made moves throughout their roster this offseason and it's time to evaluate how much, if at all, they're improved at each position
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The New England Patriots were the most active team in free agency as they set about to reverse course after their uncharacteristic non-playoff season of 2020.

The Patriots' flurry of free agency moves was described as "above average" by Pro Football Focus, but we now break it down by position to determine how much better or worse — or something in between — they are now than after the end of last season.

RELATED: Oddsmakers Unmoved by Patriots' Moves

DEFENSIVE LINE

Offseason moves: Signed DT Davon Godchaux as an unrestricted free agent from Miami ... re-signed DT Lawrence Guy ... signed DE Henry Anderson as a UFA from the New York Jets ... re-signed DT Carl Davis ... re-signed DE Deatrich Wise Jr. ... released DE Beau Allen ... lost DT Adam Butler as a UFA to Miami ... DE John Simon became an unrestricted free agent.

Summary: In essence, this comes down to a swap of Butler and Allen to bring in Godchaux and Anderson, and it's hard to argue that the Patriots came out on top in the exchange, particularly in terms of run defense. The ability of re-sign Guy a few days after the start of free agency was a nice bonus.

Verdict: Better

LINEBACKER

Offseason moves: Signed Matt Judon as an unrestricted free agent from Baltimore ... signed Kyle Van Noy as a free agent ... signed Raekwon McMillan as a UFA from Las Vegas ... lost Brandon Copeland as a UFA to Atlanta ... Shilique Calhoun became an unrestricted free agent.

Summary: The improvement in this group is unmatched by any other position outside of tight end, and that's even without mentioning Dont'a Hightower's return after opting out of the 2020 season. Judon was perhaps the best 3-4 outside linebacker in free agency and his acquisition was only complemented by the return of Van Noy one year after he signed a four-year contract with Miami as a UFA. McMillan should provide good depth as a run-stopping inside linebacker.

Verdict: Much better

SECONDARY

Offseason moves: Extended a second-round tender to restricted free agent CB J.C. Jackson ... signed S Jalen Mills as an unrestricted free agent from Philadelphia ... re-signed CB Justin Bethel ... CB Jason McCourty became an unrestricted free agent ... announced the retirement of S Patrick Chung ... lost S Terrence Brooks as a UFA to Houston.

Summary: While significant, the retirement of Chung doesn't factor in the 2020-to-2021 comparison because he was an opt-out last season. Mills was a solid addition because of his versatility and bringing back Bethel clearly was big for the special teams. Ultimately, the outlook for this group will depend on what happens with Jackson and 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. For now, it's hard not to see a little bit of an upgrade here.

Verdict: Slightly Better

SPECIALISTS

Offseason moves: Re-signed K Nick Folk ... waived K Justin Rohrwasser.

Summary: Folk was very good for the Patriots in 2020 when he made 26 of 28 field goal attempts, so bringing back was significant. The move with Rohrwasser was pretty insignificant, other than it officially signified a bust label for a 2020 fifth-round pick.

Verdict: Same