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New England Patriots

(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

The NFL’s already impressive free agent pool got a little deeper Tuesday afternoon, when the Dolphins released outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy. This move comes less than a year after Miami signed Van Noy to a four-year, $51 million contract.

Van Noy’s release, which was first reported by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo, opens up $9 million in cap space for the Dolphins for the upcoming offseason. Such moves are becoming more and more common across the NFL, as teams react to a decreased salary cap limit.

Based on a statement he released shortly after the news broke, it appears Van Noy was caught off guard by the move. The full statement reads:

“I am surprised and disappointed in their decision. As a captain, I gave my all to the team. I fought through a painful hip injury during the season, including spending a night in the hospital after a game. I was brought there to be a leader and I know my teammates looked up to and respected me. I am looking forward to making an impact on my next team.”

What will Van Noy’s next team be? According to NESN’s Doug Kyed, “everything is on the table,” including a potential return to New England.

From the Patriots point of view, a reunion with Van Noy would make a ton of sense. The team struggled to replace him last season, both on the field and as a veteran presence in the linebacker room. Having Van Noy return to carry the load while players like Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings continue to develop would help solve the edge problems the Patriots suffered in 2020.

For Van Noy, returning to New England may be the best path to inking a second lucrative, long-term free agent deal. It’s hard to imagine he will be able to find the $12 million a year he was set to make in Miami on the open market, given the current financial state of the league. However, the Patriots know how to get the most out of him as a player. If he were to sign a one-year deal, he could reset his value and hit the market again in 2022, when teams are expected to be flush with cash.

It wouldn’t be the first such reunion for the Patriots either. Prior to the 2019 season, linebacker Jamie Collins was released by the Cleveland Browns for financial and performance-based reasons. He returned to New England – who drafted him in 2013 – on a one year deal and put together a strong enough season to earn a three-year, $30 million contract from the Detroit Lions.

Granted, the Patriots were able to sign Collins for short money given the way his performance dipped in Cleveland. That won’t be the case with Van Noy, who recorded 69 tackles and six sacks in 14 games last season. But with the third-most projected cap space in the league, the Patriots should be able to make a competitive offer.

Because he was released, and not a pending free agent, Van Noy is eligible to sign whenever he is ready, even if it is before the start of the new league year on March 17. As the Patriots approach free agency and the draft, his situation is one to monitor.

Van Noy was originally a second round pick by the Detroit Lions in 2014, but struggled for the first two and a half years of his career. The Patriots acquired him for a sixth round pick before the 2016 trade deadline. He ended up spending four seasons in New England, where he recorded 16.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss in 51 games, while winning two Super Bowls. Following the 2019 season, he became a free agent and signed with Miami.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.