A very obvious New England Patriots free agent target reportedly is hitting the open market.
So, could Van Noy return to New England? “Everything is on the table,” a source told NESN.com.
Van Noy was given $15 million guaranteed as part of his contract with the Dolphins. If he had been on Miami’s roster on the fifth day of the 2021 new league year, his $12.5 million salary would have been guaranteed. The Dolphins saved $9.775 million in salary-cap space by releasing Van Noy who will be free to sign with any team once the move becomes official.
Van Noy spent three-and-a-half seasons with the Patriots after being traded along with a seventh-round pick by the Detroit Lions for a sixth-round pick midway through the 2016 season. The deal was one of Bill Belichick’s best trades as head coach and general manager in New England.
Van Noy won two Super Bowls in New England while piling up 221 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, 35 quarterback hits, two interceptions, nine pass breakups, five forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries. The Patriots suffered from a lack of depth and experience at linebacker last season, and re-signing Van Noy, on top of getting Dont’a Hightower back from last year’s opt-out, would help solve that issue.
Van Noy had 69 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, six sacks, 10 QB hits, six pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his one season with the Dolphins. He was one of the Patriots’ best defenders in 2019 before signing his big deal with Miami.
The Patriots currently have Hightower, Ja’Whaun Bentley, Terez Hall, Anfernee Jennings, Brandon King, Cassh Maluia, Josh Uche, Rashod Berry, Chase Winovich and Michael Pinckney signed at linebacker for the 2021 season. Outside linebackers Shilique Calhoun, Brandon Copeland and John Simon and edge defender Deatrich Wise are free agents.
If the money is right, it would make a ton of sense for the Patriots to bring back Van Noy to help mend their defense which struggled in 2020 after losing him, Hightower, Jamie Collins, Patrick Chung, Danny Shelton, Duron Harmon and Elandon Roberts. Hightower and Chung are set to return from opt-outs. If the Patriots really wanted to get the band back together, then Harmon is a free agent this offseason, as well.
The Patriots are projected to have over $60 million in salary-cap space heading into the 2021 offseason with needs at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, defensive tackle and linebacker. Signing Van Noy would fix one of those holes before the start of free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft.