Bill Belichick knew that even though the New England Patriots needed to get Cam Newton some help on offense, that didn’t mean they should’ve abandoned the defense after it, too, took a step back in 2020.
Belichick went straight for the expensive rack this offseason, choosing to woo former Baltimore Ravens pass rusher Matt Judon.
After getting picked in the fifth round in 2016 after a career at tiny D-II school Grand Valley State, Judon has become one of the league’s most underrated defensive players, recording 34.5 sacks over the last five seasons while making two straight Pro Bowls.
Judon was going to command a hefty price on the free agent market after playing last year on the franchise tag in Baltimore, and New England decided to make him a featured star with a huge long-term deal.
Right after getting former Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith to agree to a four-year contract, the Patriots signed Judon to a four-year, $56 million deal with $32 million guaranteed.
He was one of three big defensive signings for New England on Monday. Former Eagles cornerback Jalen Mills agreed to a four-year contract worth $24 million, while defensive tackle Davon Godchaux left the Dolphins via a two-year deal worth $16 million.
With Judon in the fold, New England’s defense can get back to being truly impenetrable.
Matthew Judon is exactly what the Patriots needed in free agency.
Over the last three seasons, Judon leads the league in unblocked quarterback pressures, a testament to his speed to ability to jump the snap. Even though the Patriots don’t lean on the 3-4 alignment as much as Baltimore does, Judon will get plenty of chances to rush the passer.
While stars like Stephon Gilmore and JC Jackson make New England’s secondary lethal, a strong pass rush has been the hallmark of some of Belichick’s best defenses. Judon is by no means in the same tier as Lawrence Taylor or Richard Seymour, but his edge-bending quickness and ability to defend the run will make him a key member of New England’s turnaround. A classic fit, one might say.
The Buffalo Bills are loaded, but the New York Jets are kicking off another rebuild and the Miami Dolphins are far from threatening on offense. In a weakened AFC East, New England could ride their Judon-led defense to some easy wins as they try to bounce back after a 7-9 season.
Judon might not have the gaudiest sack numbers in the world, but anyone claiming he isn’t a dominant end at times needs to reevaluate. He was one of the biggest free-agent prizes on the market, and Belichick managed to lure him away from Baltimore, likely enticing him with the chance to be the focal point of the New England pass rush.