The Patriots’ edge rush contingent was dealt a major blow when Matt Judon suffered a torn bicep which has landed him on IR and threatens to keep him out for the rest of the year. New England has had to rely on Josh Uche as a result, but the latter’s time with the organization could be nearing an end.
Uche and the Patriots have not held talks on a contract extension, reports Henry McKenna of Fox Sports. The 25-year-old is playing out the final year of his rookie contract, meaning he is due to reach free agency in March. Unlike many recent Patriots draftees, Uche has a case to warrant a new deal with New England in large part based on his 2021 production.
The Michigan alum held a rotational role during his first two seasons, and he totaled only four sacks in that span. Only a slight uptick in usage (38% defensive snap share) last year produced a major spike in production, however. Uche racked up 11.5 sacks, 14 QB hits and 25 pressures in 2021, leading to increased expectations for this season and the chance he would become a rare Day 2 selection to earn a second contract from the team.
The last Patriot second-rounder to be retained beyond their rookie pact was Rob Gronkowski, a sign of New England’s struggles developing homegrown playmakers over several years. Uche could have cemented his status as a top financial priority with a strong Year 4 in the league, but he has managed only a pair of sacks so far and one since the season opener. Tackling issues and struggles in coverage have contributed to a PFF grade of 63.2 this year, a major step back from last year’s evaluation.
Sitting at 1-5 and facing major questions about the short- and long-term direction the organization will be headed in, the Patriots could find themselves as sellers at the upcoming trade deadline. Uche could provide at least a depth option for contenders in search of help on the edge, and his age and status as a rental could yield a market for his services. With Judon’s contract set to expire after 2024, though, the Patriots would have incentive to retain Uche on a multi-year pact in the hopes of repeating last season’s success.
The latter has a base salary of just over $1.34MM this year, so a prorated portion of that figure would be easy for an acquiring team to absorb in a trade. If Uche remains in New England for the rest of the season, though, it will be interesting to see what kind of production he can provide and how willing team and player will be to discuss a new contract.