Top 3 New England Patriots free agents that need to be re-signed

Ja'Whaun Bentley #8 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Ja'Whaun Bentley #8 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /
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New England Patriots
Ja’Whaun Bentley #8 of the New England Patriots (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

New England Patriots free agent that needs to be re-signed No. 3: Ja’Whaun Bentley

Ja’Whaun Bentley found himself getting forced into a role he almost certainly was not ready for in 2020. With Dont’a Hightower opting out of the season due to COVID concerns, Bentley was forced to take over his role as leader of the defense despite playing sparingly over his first two seasons. For the most part, Bentley held his own, although his inexperience was on full display at times throughout the season.

This season, Bentley saw his responsibilities lessened to an extent with the return of Hightower, and he put together his best season right before he hits free agency. Bentley finished at the Patriots leading tackler with 109, picked up a sack, and force three fumbles along the way too. Bentley displayed a lot of potential early in his career, and he has continually gotten better with each passing season.

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Now New England finds themselves in a bit of a pickle. Both Bentley and Hightower are set for free agency, and it feels like there is only room for one of them on the roster. The harsh truth is that Bentley outperformed Hightower this past season, and if the Patriots want to get younger and faster on defense, it starts with bringing back Bentley to anchor the defense from the middle.

Bentley doesn’t come without his flaws though. While he excels against the run, Bentley struggles in coverage, and he’s going to need to improve on that if he wants to become a true three-down linebacker. Bentley showed a bit of improvement this past season, but he still has some work to do there.

In the same way that Hightower was tasked with replacing Jerod Mayo at the start of his career, it’s time for Bentley to take over for Hightower now. He shouldn’t have to do it alone, as Kyle Van Noy can play inside to help in coverage too, and I wouldn’t be surprised if an early pick is used in an attempt to find Bentley’s partner of the future at linebacker. Bentley could have a robust market, but that shouldn’t prevent the Patriots from bringing back their developing young linebacker.