Patriots make signing to shore up linebacker depth for the next two years
November 29th, 2022
The Patriots have locked up one of their more versatile role-playing linebackers for the next two years.
Jahlani Tavai and the Pats have agreed to a two-year extension worth up to $4.4 million, as reported by ESPN’s Field Yates on Tuesday. According to Mike Reiss, the deal also includes an $850,000 signing bonus, which when prorated over 2022-2024 results in an additional $283,000-plus in cap space for the current season.
Originally signing with the Patriots to the practice squad, Tavai was added to the 53-man roster during the 2021 season and ended up playing 13 games, mainly on special teams. He’s since emerged as a frequent starter (seven of 11 games) and useful piece of the linebacking corps in his first full season in New England, especially on early downs.
Tavai has logged 38 tackles through 11 games, which puts him on pace for a new career high. He’s also on pace to set a new career-best sack total (1.5 so far) and has already made a career-high four QB hits.
Nov 6, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots linebacker Jahlani Tavai (48) reacts with linebacker Raekwon McMillan (50) after sacking Indianapolis Colts quarterback Sam Ehlinger (not seen) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
On defense, Tavai mainly lines up either in-line or in the box, and has been arguably the team’s most dependable edge linebacker opposite Matthew Judon. Pro Football Focus has credited Tavai with 14 defensive “stops” on the season, third among Pats LBs after Judon and Ja’Whaun Bentley, and with zero missed tackles in 365 snaps. Tavai has also been a fixture on special teams, playing 71 percent of those snaps so far while working with every unit.
Tavai’s solid, versatile play has rewarded Bill Belichick for sticking by him, as the Patriots were already flush with younger linebackers coming up through the system. His workload has surpassed other linebackers on the depth chart who entered the season with the perception of higher expectations, such as Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Mack Wilson, and Raekwon McMillan.
The Patriots won’t be without linebacker depth in 2023. They still have Judon, Bentley, Uche, Jennings, Ronnie Perkins, and now Tavai under contract for next year. But Bentley, Uche, and Jennings will be entering contract years, while Perkins has yet to emerge as a viable NFL player for them.
Judon and Tavai are the only linebackers under contract in 2024, so Belichick is going to have a lot of decisions to make on that particular depth chart over the next couple of years. Tavai can at least function as a safety net who can play a number of roles on defense and special teams, while the Patriots figure out the group for the next era.
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