Contract: 4 years, $54.5 million
2021 stats: 60 combined tackles, 12.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 25 QB hits, 1 fumble recovery
Matt Judon was a home run free agent signing. After making Pro Bowls in 2019 and 2020 with the Baltimore Ravens, he quickly became the heart and soul of the Patriots defense, as well as a team leader. He was also elected to the pro bowl in his first season in New England. The veteran linebacker was the most-expensive player the Patriots signed last offseason, but he’s lived up to the hype, making an immediate impact.
Contract: 3 years, $15 million
2021 stats: 70 targets, 55 receptions, 800 yards, 5 TDs
Kendrick Bourne was a solid addition to the Patriots’ wide receiver room. Even after a slow start to the regular season, totaling three catches in the first two weeks of the regular season, he ended up playing a key role in Mac Jones' success as a rookie. His 800 yards receiving were a career-high, but still second on the team to Jakobi Meyer's 866 yards.
In addition to making plays as a receiver, Bourne also made plays as a thrower. In Week 7 against the Jets, Bourne threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor on the team’s opening drive. Bourne and Jones will look to duplicate their success in 2022, maybe even get Bourne his first career 1000-yard season.
Contract: 2 years, $22 million
2021 stats: 64 targets, 37 receptions, 473 yards, 3 TDs
Even after a decent debut in week one against the Miami Dolphins, Nelson Agholor was a bit of a disappointment last season. In that week one matchup, Agholor caught five passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. Regrettably, for the veteran receiver, he wouldn't have a single game with over 60 receiving yards. He's the unequivocal No. 3 wide receiver behind Bourne and Meyers. Agholor was supposed to be New England's deep threat. Perhaps he will bounce back in his second season after a full year in the Patriot's playbook.
Contract: 3 years, $37.5 million
2021 stats: 75 targets, 50 receptions, 603 yards, 9 TDs
Hunter Henry was a great signing. As the season progressed, the former Chargers tight end became Mac's favorite red-zone option. When the Patriots signed Henry, it was assumed he would fill the void left by Rob Gronkowski. Of course, Henry is not Gronk, but he did a great job in the red zone. As a matter of fact, he had a four-game touchdown streak from Weeks 4-7. Even though at times it felt Henry could do more, his stat line was right on par with how was performing when he was with the Chargers. Barring any injuries, there's no reason to think Henry and Jones won't build upon their chemistry in 2022.
Contract: 4 years, $50 million
2021 stats: 45 targets, 28 receptions, 294 yards, 1 TD
Jonnu Smith was the first player the Patriots came to terms with last offseason. The problem is he never really seemed to carve himself a role on offense. It felt like Smith often disappeared but when he did get targeted, it was forced.
The Patriots likely thought they were getting the touchdown threat that he was in Tennessee, but he only recorded one touchdown all season. He did have a career-high nine rushes for 40 yards, but as I mentioned earlier, it felt like the Patriots were just trying to get him involved any way they could. The Patriots have to be anticipating an improvement in 2022, taking into account, that they are paying Smith like a top-five tight end and getting the production of a backup.
Contract: 4 years, $24 million
2021 stats: 47 combined tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 7 passes defended, 1 fumble recovery
Jalen Mills proved to be an important signing, especially after the departure of Stephon Gilmore mid-season. Mills slotted on the opposite side of star corner J.C. Jackson.
He didn't come up with a single interception last season, but he did have seven pass breakups. Jackson got all the headlines and interceptions, but a lot of that is because Mills did pretty much everything the team asked of him. There's no doubt that he exceeded expectations last year.
Kyle Van Noy
Contract: 2 years, $12 million
2021 stats: 66 combined tackles, 5 sacks, 5 tackles for loss, 7 QB hits, 1 INT, 1 TD, 10 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery
Van Noy came back to New England last spring after taking his talents to South Beach in 2020.
The eight-year veteran was one of the Patriots' most well-rounded defenders, ranking second on the team in sacks. He was a playmaker under Bill Belichick, and always found himself around the ball. If he wasn't sacking the quarterback, he was in the backfield racking up QB hits.
As good as Van Noy was in both stints in Foxborough, the Patriots elected to release the two-time Super Bowl champion in order to clear $5 million in cap space. He was a fan-favorite.
Contract: 2 years, $15 million
2021 stats: 65 combined tackles, 1 sack, 2 tackles for loss, 5 QB hits, 1 forced fumble
A four-year starter in Miami before coming to New England, Godchaux has been a solid veteran presence in the trenches. He started all but one game last season.
Godchaux didn't always show up on the stat sheet last season, but when he did, he really stood out. For example, in Week 11 against the Falcons, he had three total tackles, including two tackles for a loss, and a sack. One of his best performances was against the Buffalo Bills in week 13. That was the famous cold and windy game in which both teams were very run-heavy. Godchaux shined in the miserable elements, finishing with 10 total tackles and six solo tackles. He was a major factor in New England's run defense.
Contract: 2 years, $7 million
2021 stats: 3 total tackles (4 games)
Henry Anderson came over from the rival New York Jets. He only played a total of 35 snaps over the Patriots' first four games before suffering a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 4. He'll have another opportunity to prove his worth next season, as he agreed to take a pay cut to remain in New England.
Contract: 1 year, $1.3 million
2021 stats: N/A
After being one of the Patriots’ preeminent players in last year’s training camp, the former Raiders and Dolphins linebacker tore his ACL during training camp. The good news? The Patriots signed the former 2017 second-round pick to a one-year extension. McMillan should be ready to go by training camp after missing the entire season.