Grading DT Davon Godchaux’s deal with the New England Patriots: B

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Mark Schofield
·3 min read
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Bill Belichick entered free agency with the third-most cap space of any NFL franchise, and he is not waiting to spread that money around. First the team reached a deal with tight end Jonnu Smith, looking to address a position group that has struggled to produce the past few seasons, and then Belichick added nose tackle Davon Godchaux.

Adam Schefter — with a nod to agent Drew Rosenhaus — reported on the deal for ESPN:

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This deal is perhaps the quintessential Belichick move. The venerable head coach and defensive mind has crafted a number of defenses build around a stout presence at nose tackle. Think back to players like Vince Wilfork and Ted Washington who manned the heart of his 3-4 defensive fronts for so many seasons. While it is true that base defenses such as the 3-4 have gone the way of the dodo, the Patriots and Belichick do utilize a number of three-man fronts even in their sub packages, whether in 3-3-5 groupings or even 3-2-6.

That requires the presence of a nose tackle up front who can command double-teams and even two-gap if asked to depending on the call. Godchaux made the transition from more of an attacking 3-technique during his early days to a read-and-react 1-technique the past two seasons under Brian Flores, who of course spent time in New England with Belichick. Godhaux taled about the transition prior to the 2019 season:

I’m very comfortable. The first couple days, (I was) a little rusty. Each and everybody was a little rusty. Speaking of myself, a little rusty. I’m coming out here each and every day, getting the techniques, going through the growing pains of the 3-4, 4-3 defense.

The ultimate goal is to be a team player (at) my nose position. If I’m in 1-tech, play A-gap, 2-I, play the A-gap, if I move to a three-play B-gap. It’s the same thing we’re doing. We’re playing the same gap. We just went from attacking to read.

There are two reasons that keep this from being a higher-graded signing. First, Godchaux is coming off a bicep injury that ended his season early last year, although he was playing at a high level before his year ended. Second, we are talking about a player whose strength is helping against the run. Godchaux’s four-year career has resulted in total of three sacks, so if the Patriots are going to get pressure on the opposing passer it will have to come from elsewhere.

Plus, adding him to the middle of their defense might mean that Lawrence Guy and/or Adam Butler are going to be moving on from New England. Both players were huge parts of the defensive line last seaon for the Patriots.

Still, this is a textbook Belichick move, and it comes at a position he values. Even in the modern NFL.