Grading Matt Judon’s deal with the New England Patriots: B

Bill Belichick continues to wave the money around as the NFL’s legal tampering window opens. In addition to adding tight end Jonnu Smith and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux, the New England Patriots added some help on the edge, reaching a deal with pass rusher Matt Judon, formerly of the Baltimore Ravens.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter was among the many covering the NFL to report out the terms of the deal, which is expected to be finalized when the league year officially begins on Wednesday:

Some will discount Judon’s impact as a pass-rusher because Baltimore’s blitz rates have been so high over the last two seasons (a league-high 54.9% in 2019, and a league-high 44.1% in 2020), but that’s not entirely fair, nor does it mean that Judon can’t get to the quarterback without a blitz. He’s sneaky-fast around blockers to get pressure in more static fronts, and yes, given his experience with blitz concepts, he can also read gaps and time his rushes from multiple positions.

Judon had six sacks, 16 quarterback hits, 23 quarterback hurries, and 28 stops last season. He’ll have no issue excelling in any scheme as an edge defender who can also line up as an off-ball linebacker and occasionally reinforce coverage. His 46 pressures from a season ago would have ranked him second on the Patriots, behind Chase Winovich.

Belichick values versatility in his defenders, and Judon’s ability to function both with his hand in the dirt off the edge as well as an off-ball linebacker in coverage will be a huge plus for his fit in New England. Remember, this is a defense that will be returning both Patrick Chung and Dont’a Hightower to the lineup, as both players opted-out of last season.

As for the blitz percentage, this could potentially be an indication that the Patriots are going to bring pressure more often. After blitzing at a rate of 37.1% in 2019 — which was sixth-most in the league — the Patriots brought pressure on just 24.4% of their snaps last year, which dropped the team to tenth-fewest in the league. Whether this was a reflection of their players up front, or concerns in the secondary, can be debated.

What cannot be debated is the impact a player like this can make in New England’s defense:

His scheme fit is almost ideal, as he can play on the edge when the Patriots utilize a four-man surface, or upright in some of their sub packages as you see in the above example. The Patriots could perhaps use him in a manner similar to how they relied upon Kyle Van Noy in the past, with the added bonus of Judon’s ability as a pure pass rusher. Consider him perhaps a hybrid of Trey Flowers and Van Noy from season’s past.

Not bad given their needs up front. Not bad at all. Especially when you consider the contract. Judon was playing under the franchise tag last season, carrying a cap number of $16.8 million. Under the terms of this deal, even if Judon hits the full value that comes with a yearly number of $14 million. Solid for a player that can make that kind of impact.