Josh Uche

Mutual Interest Between Patriots, Josh Uche On New Deal

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.

AFC Trade Rumors: Patriots, Broncos, Renfrow

The Patriots fielded lots of calls for trade offers during today’s trade deadline, but two of the bigger names on their roster reportedly received no interest. According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, teams called New England to take the temperature on pass rusher Josh Uche, safety Kyle Dugger, and tackle Michael Onwenu, while quarterback Mac Jones and veteran running back Ezekiel Elliott didn’t receive any nibbles.

Uche, Dugger, and Onwenu are all facing contract-years, so they all held a decent chance of being dealt. Uche was reportedly the most likely, per NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. After a couple quiet years to start his career, Uche burst onto the scene in 2022, combining with Matt Judon for half of the team’s 54 sacks last year. Mike Dugar of The Athletic reports that the Seahawks held serious interest in Uche “with talks going pretty deep,” but ultimately, landed Leonard Williams from New York instead. With Seattle filling their defensive line need with Williams, Uche will remain in New England.

As will, Jones and Elliott. It’s unclear how serious the Patriots were, if at all, about seeking trade partners for the two offensive contributors. The team will face a fifth-round option decision for Jones before next year, while Elliott will become a free agent at the end of the season.

Here are a few other rumors from around the AFC, starting out West:

  • It was a similar scene up in Mile High, where the Broncos decided not to move any of their potential trade assets due to a lack of serious interest. While the team reportedly did receive offers on players like receivers Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton, they didn’t gauge the offers as good enough to move on, per Jordan Schultz of Bleacher Report. Mike Klis of 9NEWS relayed that the team is “confident in its group of players.” While it seemed the team may be willing to dive into a rebuild, beating a sick Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs may have convinced them otherwise.
  • Remaining in the West, the Raiders were unable to find a buyer for wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, to little surprise. Las Vegas gave Renfrow a big-money extension after his Pro Bowl season and has diminished his role severely ever since. So far this year, Renfrow has been on the field for over half of the Raiders’ offensive snaps in only three games. According to Vic Tafur of The Athletic, the remaining guaranteed money in Renfrow’s contract prevented any teams from fully following through on their interest in the veteran receiver. With Renfrow staying put and the many sources shooting down reports of wide receiver Davante Adams wanting out of Vegas, according to Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Raiders stood pat at the trade deadline.

Latest On Patriots, Josh Uche

4:47pm: Pointing further to Uche’s days in New England being numbered, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated reports the Patriots have had “advanced trade talks” regarding the sack artist with multiple teams in recent weeks. To no surprise, Uche’s injury troubles have hindered his market, but interest from suitors and a willingness to move on from New England certainly remains in place.

11:06am: As the trade deadline approaches, attention continues to be paid to non-contending teams and their willingness to move notable players. That includes the Patriots, a team which has a number of trade chips.

[RELATED: Patriots’ Kendrick Bourne Suffers ACL Tear]

Of those, edge rusher Josh Uche is the likeliest to be traded, Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald reports. Uche is one of several 2020 draftees who have yet to sign an extension and as such could be had as rentals for the stretch run in 2023. An acquiring team would no doubt be interested in signing Uche to an extension as well, however.

The former second-rounder has not engaged in talks on a new deal with the Patriots, so it comes as no surprise that his name has emerged in trade rumors. Kyed notes that interested teams have called New England about all of their pending free agents – a group which also includes the likes of safety Kyle Dugger, offensive lineman Michael Onwenu and defensive back Jalen Mills. However, any more than one deal being finalized would be noteworthy, he adds.

Uche has shown flashes of being an impactful presence off the edge during his time in New England. That was especially true last season, when he logged 11.5 sacks despite playing only 38% of the team’s defensive snaps. The Michigan alum has not received an increase in playing time this year despite the absence of top edge rusher Matt Judon. Uche, who has missed the past two games due to injury, has a pair of sacks and six QB pressures in 2023.

Relatively undersized at the edge spot, the 6-3, 240-pounder has drawn poor PFF grades for his run defense and would be in line for a role as a situational rusher on a new team. As Kyed notes, the Patriots are set to have considerable spending power in free agency, meaning they may not be in line for a Day 2 or 3 compensatory pick in the event Uche were to depart on the open market and they made a notable addition to replace him.

New England – a team which has not only been open to fielding offers but has also actively spoken with clubs to gauge the market – would likely not be able to land a premium pick in return for Uche in the event they moved him. Of course, his value will depend in large part on the asking price attached to other edge rusher on the trade block, none of whom have been moved yet. For the time being, though, Uche’s name will be one to watch as the 2-6 Patriots sort out their plans ahead of the deadline.

Patriots “Sniffing Around” At Potential Trades

We heard earlier this week that the Patriots were “willing to listen to offers” leading up to the trade deadline. According to Albert Breer of SI.com, New England’s front office may be the side that is initiating trade talks.

[RELATED: Latest On Patriots’ Deadline Plans]

The Patriots are “sniffing around” to see what draft compensation they could get for some of their logical trade candidates. Breer points to offensive lineman Michael Onwenu, safety Kyle Dugger, and defensive end Josh Uche as players who could be on the trade block. All three players are impending free agents, and despite possessing a chunk of 2024 cap space, the organization may want to move on from players they may not re-sign.

Breer opines that Uche is the player who’s most likely to be traded since he’d “probably be the most difficult of the group to re-sign.” The former second-round pick has followed up his 11.5-sack 2022 campaign by collecting six tackles and two sacks in six games this year. While his numbers this season are underwhelming, his pass-rushing ability means the Patriots would still be able to bring back a worthwhile return in a trade. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler agrees that Uche is a name “worth watching,” noting that the pass-rusher has garnered trade interest around the NFL. Likewise, based on his conversations with multiple teams, Mike Giardi of the Boston Sports Journal believes Uche has the best chance of any current Patriot to be dealt.

On the flip side, Breer thinks Onwenu is the least likely of the group to be traded. The Patriots will use the rest of the 2023 campaign to evaluate Mac Jones, and Breer can’t envision the organization hurting the QB’s chances by subtracting from the offense. Following that same logic, Breer also doesn’t see wide receiver Kendrick Bourne getting traded, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com does not think New England will part with any top talent unless it receives at least a third-round pick in return. Of course, if another club were willing to take on an onerous contract (JuJu Smith-SchusterDeVante Parker) as part of a deal for a player like Uche, the Pats would certainly listen.

Breer adds one more name to the list of potential trade candidates: Jalen Mills. The defensive back has served in a variety of roles with the Patriots since joining the organization in 2021. Mills got through two years of his four-year, $24MM deal before getting cut back in March, but he quickly rejoined the Patriots on a new pact. While the Patriots have dealt with a number of injuries in their secondary, Mills has only seen time in 26 percent of New England’s defensive snaps this season.

Latest On Patriots’ Deadline Plans

Despite their upset win over the Bills in Week 7, the 2-5 Patriots are likely to find themselves in the sellers category ahead of the upcoming trade deadline. To no surprise, the team is open to at least considering offers on a number of players.

[RELATED: Patriots, Bill Belichick Agreed To Offseason Extension]

Doug Kyed of the Boston Herald reports that the Patriots are “willing to listen to offers” which could see them deal away members of their core, specifically those on expiring contracts. That means the likes of edge rusher Josh Uche, safety Kyle Dugger and offensive lineman Michael Onwenu in particular could be the subject of trade negotiations in the coming days.

A recent report indicated Uche and the Patriots have not held extension talks, leaving him on a path toward departing in free agency in March. New England does not have a history of valuing situational edge rushers such as the Michigan alum as highly as other teams. As such, it would not come as a surprise if a market developed for his services to close out the 2023 season, but also for years to come on a long-term deal given out by an acquiring team. Uche had a breakout season last year with 11.5 sacks, but he has managed just a pair so far this season.

As fellow 2020 draftees, Dugger and Onwenu are playing out the final year of their rookie contracts. The franchise tag could be in play for the former in particular, Kyed notes, and it may become necessary if an extension cannot be worked out. Dugger expressed an affinity for the Patriots in the summer when asked about his contract status, but no updates have emerged regarding an extension being on the horizon. The same is true for Onwenu, who has proven to be a versatile and consistent blocker over the course of his career (although his performance has taken a step back in 2023).

Kyed adds that the trio of Uche, Dugger and Onwenu would each likely garner draft compensation ranging from second- to fourth-round picks if they were to be included in deadline deals. Veteran wideout Kendrick Bourne – previously named as a low-cost trade target at his position – could also draw attention and yield a Day 3 pick in return. As Jeff Howe of The Athletic notes (subscription required), New England is seen around the league as a team with desirable trade chips, so they will be a team to watch in the coming days.

The Patriots are currently slated to have the third-most 2024 cap space in the league at nearly $93MM. That flexibility could go a long way in informing their moves (or lack thereof) ahead of the October 31 deadline as they weigh the value of future assets against that of retaining key players in what appears to be another season destined to land outside the postseason.

Patriots, Josh Uche Have Not Discussed Extension

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.

Extension Candidate: Kyle Dugger

The Patriots haven’t signed a first- or second-round pick to a rookie contract extension since Dont’a Hightower, who was a member of the 2012 draft class. Things may change in 2023, as the Patriots have a 2020 second-round pick who is worthy of a new deal. Kyle Dugger is currently eligible for an extension, and the safety can make a strong case for a new contract in New England.

The defensive back was a surprise pick out of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne, with the Patriots selecting him 37th-overall in 2020. Following an inconsistent rookie campaign that saw him in and out of the starting lineup, Dugger took it to another level over the past two seasons. Between 2021 and 2022, the safety has compiled 120 tackles, seven interceptions, and three defensive touchdowns. The 26-year-old earned his best Pro Football Focus grade in 2022, finishing 11th among 88 qualifying safeties.

The Patriots secondary will be lacking some leadership in 2023 following the retirement of Devin McCourty, and Bill Belichick and co. will surely want to maintain some continuity in their safeties room. Jabrill Peppers and Adrian Phillips provide some solid depth at the position, and the team has reportedly given cornerback Jalen Mills some reps at safety. The organization also used a third-round pick on Sacramento State defensive back Marte Mapu, perhaps some insurance in case the organization loses their starter next offseason.

However, none of those options offer as much upside as Dugger, and while the team doesn’t have a long track record of extending first- or second-round picks, the safety has easily outperformed most of the other players on that list. Of course, this is the Patriots, and we shouldn’t expect the front office to start negotiating against themselves.

Despite his impressive numbers over the past two seasons, Dugger hasn’t established himself among the top tier of safeties. A top-10 contract at the position would put him in line for an average annual value of $14MM. More likely, New England will be looking to get Dugger under contract for a discounted amount; considering his production and the current contracts at the position, a deal starting around $12MM per year could make some sense.

Fortunately for New England, Dugger’s contract status won’t be a distraction for the fourth-year player.

“That’s not on my mind,” Dugger said of his impending free agency (via Chad Graff of The Athletic). “That’s the business part. I’m on the field and trying to handle business on the field and let that be that. But I definitely enjoy playing with this organization.”

Dugger might not even be the only member of the Patriots 2020 draft class to earn an extension. Fellow second-round pick Josh Uche had a breakout season in 2022, finishing with 11.5 sacks and a top-20 edge rusher grade from PFF. The Patriots probably won’t overpay for one good season, and Uche is mostly a part-time player in their system. However, another 10-plus-sack season would put Uche in line for a massive payday next offseason. If the organization believes his 2022 season was for real, it may be in their best interest to extend the linebacker now.

Offensive lineman Michael Onwenu could be another interesting contender for an extension. The 2020 sixth-round pick earned PFWA All-Rookie Team honors as a rookie, struggled during his second season, and then earned a top-four PFF mark among all guards in 2022. The lineman’s inconsistency makes him a risky extension candidate, but New England could look to hedge their bets and sign him to an affordable deal while they have the chance. As Evan Lazar of the team’s website points out, the organization does have a recent history of trying to retain interior linemen, including Shaq Mason‘s extension and Joe Thuney‘s franchise tag.

Part of the reason for the team’s lack of success in a post-Tom Brady era (besides the quarterback’s obvious defection) was the team’s lack of draft hits. The fact that the Patriots have three worthy extension candidates from their 2020 draft class shows that the organization is starting to rebound in their prospect evaluations.

Latest On Patriots’ LB Competition

Inside linebacker has been the source of plenty of roster turnover this offseason in New England. The team has seen a number of veterans depart recently, leaving them with much uncertainty amongst their current options at the position. 

The losses of Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy left the Patriots with a significant number of snaps to fill in the middle of their defense. That made LB as a position many expected would be a draft target for New England; however, they elected not to add rookies with any of their selections, and even declined to sign any UDFAs to add competition for roster spots.

[RELATED: Patriots Open To Hightower Return?]

As a result, the team is using the offseason to re-order its new depth chart at the position. ESPN’s Mike Reiss reports that Raekwon McMillan has been one of the “top” linebackers in practice, taking starter’s reps alongside Ja’Whaun Bentley. The former signed with New England after brief stints with the Dolphins and Raiders. A torn ACL – already the second of his career – prevented him from seeing the field this past campaign. New England still extended him, though, paving the way for what could be a significant role in 2022.

Other linebackers slated for notable playing time include Mack Wilson, whom the Patriots acquired in a trade with the Browns during the early stages of free agency. He has rotated amongst McMillan and Bentley, seeing time with Josh Uche. Where the latter (a 2020 second-rounder drafted as a pass-rusher) lines up will remain a key storyline into the summer. Reiss notes that Uche’s precise fit in the LB corps “looks like a moving target,” given his usage in spring practices.

A veteran addition would come as little surprise at this point, given New England’s lack of known commodities at linebacker. If they elect to maintain the status quo, however, the position could provide one of the most intriguing training camp competitions on the roster.

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/1/22

Here are the New Year’s Day activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: G Oli Udoh

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Bryce Hall

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/25-12/26/21

Here are the NFL moves from Christmas and today:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Rams

New England Patriots

New York Giants

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Football Team