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    Jahlani Tavai Contract Details: Why Patriots Were Wise To Extend Underrated LB

    The New England Patriots reportedly agreed to a new contract with linebacker Jahlani Tavai, one of the more underrated defenders on their roster.

    The New England Patriots dished out more money on Tuesday, reportedly agreeing to a contract extension with linebacker Jahlani Tavai. Let’s break down the details of the deal, and whether the Patriots were wise to extend Tavai before he entered a contract season.

    Jahlani Tavai Contract Details

    Tavai’s contract is worth $15 million over three seasons with a max value of $21 million, according to ESPN’s Mike Reiss and Adam Schefter. The 27-year-old was set to enter the final year of a two-year, $4.4 million extension signed during November of the 2022 season.

    Additional details of the contract, including guarantees and incentives, weren’t known at the time of this writing. We’ll update the story once we know more.

    The Detroit Lions (then coached by Matt Patricia) selected Tavai in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. But the Hawaii product struggled during two seasons in Detroit and was cut before the 2021 campaign.

    New England, then employing Patricia as a “senior football advisor,” added Tavai to its practice squad ahead of its season opener. A few weeks later, Tavai was signed to the Patriots’ 53-man roster, where he’s stayed ever since.

    Tavai didn’t play much during the 2021 campaign. But his role steadily increased over the next two seasons while he established himself as an important, underrated member of one of the NFL‘s best defenses.

    Why Patriots Needed To Extend Tavai

    Tavai isn’t a premier NFL linebacker. He’s a starter for the Patriots, who’ve largely neglected the LB position in recent years. But you could argue he’s a backup playing above his weight class.

    Nevertheless, Tavai is a good, reliable football player who both fills the stat sheet and does things that elude it. In 2023, Tavai ranked second on the Patriots with 110 combined tackles while racking up five pass breakups (most among New England linebackers), one sack, four QB hits, and five tackles for a loss.

    The analytics love Tavai, too. Would you believe he was Pro Football Focus‘ fourth-ranked linebacker in 2023, a year after finishing a respectable 21st?

    Tavai also has a nose for the football. He posted two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery last season. One of his pass breakups also led to a Myles Bryant interception.

    The Patriots had just 18 takeaways in 2023 (fourth fewest in the league), and Tavai factored into at least six of them. Tavai is also versatile, tough, and durable. Since joining the Patriots, he’s missed zero games due to injuries, and he’s an emerging leader in the locker room.

    Add it all up, and you have the kind of player every team wants on their roster. However, Tavai’s contract extension might not be just about him.

    Tavai, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Sione Takitaki are the Patriots’ top three linebackers. Bentley and Takitaki are both signed for two more seasons, but neither is guaranteed any money for 2025.

    Takitaki is entering his first season with the Patriots, and the jury is out on whether he’ll be a good fit. So, let’s focus on Bentley, who’ll turn 28 in August.

    Bentley might not be at the level of some of his predecessors (like Dont’a Hightower), but he’s a very good middle linebacker in his own right. He’s tough, a prolific tackler, an underrated pass rusher, and sets a physical tone on defense. The seventh-year pro is also a team captain and a vocal leader in the locker room.

    But Bentley played a lot of football over the last three seasons, and at a physically taxing position. He looked gassed at the end of last season, and it’s fair to wonder whether he’s already started declining. Regardless of whether the Patriots rework Bentley’s contract in 2025, they need to plan for the future.

    Perhaps New England will target a franchise LB in the draft, free agency, or a trade over the next year, but right now, Tavai is their only other quality option at inside linebacker. The Patriots couldn’t afford to enter next offseason with Tavai hitting free agency and both Bentley and Takitaki working under non-guaranteed contracts.

    Extending Tavai gives the Patriots needed insurance at a key position while ensuring one of their best defenders is under contract for at least a few more seasons. It was a no-brainer and another wise move by de facto general Eliot Wolf, who’s prioritized re-signing and extending New England’s top in-house players.

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