The New England Patriots had a tough decision to make: they could keep Kyle Van Noy for 2022 but risk losing potentially all of their top pending free agents, most notably safety Devin McCourty. But by cutting Van Noy, the Patriots freed up $4.1 million in space, which should help them work toward retaining some of their impending free agents.
New England has about $13.4 million in cap space after the move. That could empower them to get serious about negotiations with McCoury, guard Ted Karras, special teams ace Matt Slater, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, tackle Trent Brown and maybe even cornerback J.C. Jackson. It’s unclear how many of their departing free agents the Patriots might try to retain. But it was clear they didn’t have enough space to retain many (or any) of them prior to cutting Van Noy. And his departure may be just one of many potential cap casualties for the Patriots in the coming days. Other candidates include defensive end Henry Anderson, punter Jake Bailey and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy, among others.
Even with Van Noy out, the Patriots could also see Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley and Jamie Collins leave in free agency. That would leave behind a young group of linebackers. Matt Judon would return, of course. But past him, there’s Josh Uche, Ronnie Perkins, Cam McGrone, Chase Winovich, Raekwan McMillan and a few other players who have yet to prove themselves. The interior of the linebacking corps looks extremely thin. On the outside, maybe this outflow of veterans could bring life to Uche and maybe even Winovich’s careers. Both showed promise. Neither have truly emerged as every-down contributors.
New England has six selections in the 2022 NFL draft, where they can build out an even younger group at the position. And perhaps New England will find a way to either retain their impending free agents or identify a group of less expensive options on the market. The decision to cut Van Noy was a matter of priority. The team clearly hopes to retain some of their other players more than Van Noy.