Patriots Labeled ‘Dark-Horse Destination’ for Elite Pass-Rusher

Bill Belichick Patriots

Getty The Patriots could bring back one of their former players in Chandler Jones.

The New England Patriots may be in play for one of the top pass-rushers in the NFL.

One of the flaws of the 2021 Patriots were their lack of pass rush. In fact, New England ranked 18th in the league in sacks, with their leading sack specialist being none other than free agent signee Matthew Judon at 12.5 sacks. While that’s a respectable number, it’s the pass rush outside of Judon that was a real problem. The Patriots’ second-leading sack specialist was Kyle Van Noy at five sacks.

According to Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox, former Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones could make his way back to New England.

“Chandler Jones will likely be the top pass-rusher on the free-agent market this offseason,” says Knox. “The Arizona Cardinals standout was just named to his fourth Pro Bowl after a season with 10.5 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 26 quarterback hits and 36 quarterback pressures.

Would a return to the New England Patriots make sense for Jones? At first blush, perhaps not. The Patriots traded Jones to Arizona in 2016. New England also has a star pass-rusher in 2021 free-agent prize Matt Judon.

However, Jones has no ill will toward Patriots coach Bill Belichick for dealing him away.”

Knox explains why a reunion makes sense despite the fact the Patriots traded Jones to the Arizona Cardinals back in 2016.

“Belichick also has a history of bringing back former players he believes can help the team,” says Knox. “This past offseason, it was linebacker Kyle Van Noy, linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. and offensive tackle Trent Brown.

Pairing Jones with Judon would give New England arguably the best pass-rushing duo in the league. While forging it might seem like a long shot for New England, especially after last offseason’s spending spree, it’s not entirely impossible.”

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Why Jones Signing With Patriots Make Sense

Despite nearing 32 years of age, Jones hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. The 10-year veteran registered an 89.9 pass-rushing grade (sixth among all edge rushers), according to Pro Football Focus.

His pass-rushing grade in 2021 was the best of his career outside of 19-sack campaign in 2019 (90.0 pass-rushing grade).

After earning an average annual salary of $16.5 million during his five-year contract with the Cardinals, Spotrac projects Jones’ market value to be $14 million per season on a three-year deal this offseason.

The Patriots relied on older linebackers this past season — Van Noy (30 years old), Jamie Collins (32 years old) and Dont’a Hightower (31 years old) — so bringing in Jones won’t help when it comes to that concerning pattern.

But you can’t ignore the production that Jones brings to the table. His familiarity with the Patriots’ system also cannot be overlooked.

The idea of the Patriots adding their first-round draft pick from 2012 is a definite possibility.

Slater: ‘I’m Closer to the End’

The Patriots’ season is over after their 47-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills in the opening round of the playoffs. With their season over, New England could see the potential retirement of their longest-tenured player.

Special teams ace Matthew Slater just completed his 14th season with the club. Despite being a Second-Team All-Pro selection this season, the 36-year-old refused to commit to the 2022 season following the defeat.

“I certainly don’t want to disrespect the team, and what we just went through, and talk about my personal situation,” Slater told reporters on January 15. “Obviously, I’m closer to the end, we all know that. I’ll pray about it and make a final decision and have some conversations.”

Since he was selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Slater has been named to 10 Pro Bowls and has registered five All-Pro team selections.

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