Things are going to change in 2017 for the Patriots defense. The list of defenders due to hit free agency after this season is long and talented — Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins, Jabaal Sheard, Alan Branch, Logan Ryan, Duron Harmon and Chris Long are some of the high profile names.
Now, the Patriots have the cap space to re-sign who they want. They won’t re-sign all of them, but they have enough in the pipeline to overcome a few departures from that group. Guys like Trey Flowers, Cyrus Jones, Vincent Valentine and Eric Rowe are some who could potentially take elevated roles in 2017 if guys leave.
But make no mistake, change is coming and what the Patriots have right now on defense is as experienced and talented a group on paper as they’ve had since the mid-2000’s. We knew coming into the season that this defense had the chance to be special. This was supposed to be peak Patriots defense for the second time in Bill Belichick’s reign. That’s what happens when you return everyone except one defensive end, and add even more talented contributors like Long and Valentine.
But what is troubling is similar issues continue to haunt this defense and I can’t help but wonder if they’ll truly reach the level Patriots fan believed them capable of this offseason.