The Patriots will end up keeping Jalen Mills in the fold, after all. The two-year New England cornerback starter agreed to terms on a deal that will move him back onto the team’s offseason roster Wednesday morning, The Score’s Jordan Schultz tweets.
Mills will come back on a one-year deal worth up to $6.1MM, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Last week, the Pats made Mills a cap casualty by taking his four-year, $24MM contract off the books. But after re-signing Jonathan Jones, the team will give Mills another shot as well.
Mills’ release surfaced last week, but ESPN.com’s Mike Reiss adds it never ended up taking place. Rather, Wednesday’s transaction is a restructure that lops 2024 off Mills’ contract and turns 2023 into a pay cut featuring incentives.
A former Super Bowl starter in Philadelphia, Mills helped New England withstand the exits of Super Bowl-era regulars Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson. Mills fared better in 2021; a groin injury limited him to 10 games last season. Mills has experience at both cornerback and safety, playing the latter position in 2020 for the Eagles. Despite Devin McCourty‘s retirement, the Pats have three experienced safeties — Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers and Kyle Dugger — on the roster.
Although New England’s cornerback outlook is a bit foggier, Schultz adds the team is eyeing Mills as a safety. Mills should loom as the lead candidate to replace McCourty, NFL.com’s Mike Giardi tweets. Mills started 15 games for the Eagles at safety three seasons ago, but the Pats moved him back to corner during the 2021 offseason.
Pro Football Focus rated the former seventh-round find as a top-35 corner in 2021 but viewed him as a bottom-five player at the position last year. The 2021 assessment did come during a season in which Mills allowed seven touchdowns, but the 6-foot defender also finished that season having averaged 6.2 yards per target. The Patriots will see if he can prove worthy of a starting spot during his age-29 campaign.
Jones, 29, came back on a two-year, $19MM deal that included $13MM fully guaranteed. The versatile veteran will be back for an eighth season in New England. Rookie-contract players — Marcus and Jack Jones and Shaun Wade — comprise the other half of New England’s cornerback contingent, with the team extending an RFA tender to slot player Myles Bryant as well. The team will likely look at more upgrade options in the draft.