Patriots 2023 offseason: Where defensive line can improve after solid season

Curran: Where Patriots' d-line can improve after solid 2022 season originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Patriots' defensive line in 2022 was pretty good.

The edges were terrifically productive with Matt Judon and Josh Uche combining for 26 sacks and the team as a whole winding up with 54 sacks and 93 quarterback hits.

The interior defensive line, even without the potentially dominant Christian Barmore, still allowed 105.5 rushing yards per game (16.1 better than league average) and 4.07 yards per carry (league average: 4.46). But they were closer to the bottom of the league in third down, red zone and goal-to-go defense, finishing 21st, 22nd and 27th in those categories, respectively.

Curran's Patriots position resets: QuarterbackWide receiver | Tight end | Running back | Offensive line

The defense was 10th in points allowed (20.4) but that situational stuff where drives are being extended and points are going on the board needs improvement in 2023.

Bright spots

Judon and Uche were terrific most of the year. Their sack production came in spurts -- Judon had 2.5 sacks in the final seven games; Uche had all of his 11.5 sacks in a seven-game span -- but the Patriots have edge rushers they can count on. They also got an excellent season from Deatrich Wise, who added 7.5 sacks and 59 tackles while playing a career-high 73 percent of the defensive snaps.

Barmore was limited to 10 games by injury but was productive when he was out there. Davon Godchaux was rewarded during training camp with a big contract and played all 17 games, finishing with 62 tackles. Good production.

Lawrence Guy, a mainstay on the Patriots defensive line, was limited to 14 games but was reliable even though his production dipped from his underrated performance the previous four seasons. The biggest body on the Patriots defensive line, Carl Davis, played 21 percent of the snaps and has been a good situational defender at 6-foot-5, 330 pounds.

The disappointments

The biggest disappointment was that Barmore was limited to 10 games due to injury. He’s a pretty rare talent, and hopefully he can be out there more in 2023 because he’s a beast. Other than that, the Patriots got generally-solid-but-not-spectacular work from the interior.

Contract statuses

Pretty much everybody has two years left on their deal. Judon has two years with salaries of $ 11 million and $ 9.5 million and cap hits of $ 18 million and $ 16 million. He’s got the highest hit on the team this year but he’s worth it.

Godchaux is signed through 2024 and his salaries are $ 5.85 million and $ 7.15 million. Wise is also signed through 2024 with $ 4 million salaries the next two years. Barmore, same deal.

Guy is signed through 2024 at $ 2 million salaries both years. His rookie deal expires after 2024. Uche is entering the last year of his rookie deal and he’s a big bargain right now with a $ 1.34 million salary. He could be an extension target. Carl Davis and Daniel Ekuale are both free agents this year.

Offseason priority (Scale of 1-5)

3.5. The Patriots need to start planning ahead with all the expiring contracts they have coming at them after 2024. That means draft spending on both edge and interior guys should be a priority.