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New England Patriots

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - JANUARY 11: Matt Judon #99 of the Baltimore Ravens reacts during the AFC Divisional Playoff game Tennessee Titans at M&T Bank Stadium. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

The Patriots are set to have among the most cap space in the NFL in the 2021 offseason, giving them plenty of room to sign free agents on both offense and defense. And while quarterback is the most important question to answer, Bill Belichick also has plenty of work to do on the other side of the ball.

Fortunately, the Pats have more than enough cap space to add a quarterback and still make a significant free-agent signing on defense. Last time they ranked this highly in cap space, Belichick pounced on Stephon Gilmore for a big-money contract in 2017. So there’s a chance Belichick goes for one of the bigger names.

If Gilmore stays in New England, the Patriots are still well-stocked in the secondary. But the defensive front-seven could certainly use an immediate infusion of talent. So defensive line and linebacker are where most of the below unrestricted free agents will land.

We stopped short of names like Von Miller, Shaq Barrett, etc. But there are a few big names on this list, despite being home-run swings. These free agents range from instant difference-makers to dependable veterans and reclamation projects. Belichick can afford to sign any of them, and may need to go big if he wants to get the Patriots right back into contention in 2021.

11 free agents to watch for the Patriots defense

MORE: Stephon Gilmore a “name to watch” on trade market

We’ll continue to keep you updated on everything going on in the Patriots’ offseason. Keep checking back at 985TheSportsHub.com for more coverage.

We talked a lot about the Patriots’ prospects in free agency this year in a recent episode of the SideLines podcast with myself and Ty Anderson. You can listen below. Just to 47:32.

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays.