The Patriots were quiet at the trade deadline despite having a number of pending free agents which garnered attention from contending teams. One of them – edge rusher Josh Uche – appeared to be on his way out of New England. Instead, he may remain in place beyond 2023.
Uche, who is set to see his rookie contract expire in March, was frequently named as a trade candidate in the build-up to last month’s deadline. Compared to fellow 2019 draftees Kyle Dugger and Michael Onwenu, he was listed as the player likeliest to be dealt. Advanced talks took place, and the Seahawks were named as an interested team, but no trade was hammered out. Now, Uche is due to reach free agency for the first time in his career.
The 25-year-old confirmed, via ESPN’s Mike Reiss, that head coach Bill Belichick was transparent about the team’s discussions regarding a trade which would have sent him elsewhere. With that having been avoided, though, it will be interesting to see how large of a workload he logs down the stretch. The former second-rounder has seen a 33% snap share this season, a slight step back from his playing time in his breakout 2022 campaign. Uche posted 11.5 of his 17.5 career sacks in the latter year.
For that reason, it came as something of a surprise when reports emerged that no extension talks had taken place as of last month. Uche has missed a pair of games this season, though, and posted only a pair of sacks to date. Those factors could complicate his value on the open market, along with how teams view him with respect to holding three-down potential or simply being a sack artist. In any case, interest in a second Patriots contract appears to be mutual.
“I want to be here,” Uche said, adding he does not expect negotiations to start until the offseason. “From my conversations with [Belichick], they want me here. It’s just all about making sure all the pieces fit together, and sometimes it’s out of our control, and then sometimes it just takes time.”
The Patriots are currently scheduled to have the second-most cap space in the NFL in 2024, so the team will have considerable spending power on deals for outside free agents or re-ups with internal players. It will be interesting to see if an agreement can be worked out in the coming months to keep Uche in New England, or if the team will be prepared to let him walk in free agency after not dealing him away mid-season.