Patriots working to bring back special-teams coach Joe Judge

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots and special-teams coach Joe Judge are ironing out final details for him to return to the team in 2018, according to a league source, which will help them maintain continuity at the coordinator level of the coaching staff.

There are still some minor things to finalize, and because a contract hasn't been signed, the move is not yet official. But it is expected to happen.

Judge's imminent return despite interest from other teams, coupled with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels reversing course and staying with the team, means Bill Belichick has only one coordinator vacancy to fill after defensive coordinator Matt Patricia was officially hired as Detroit Lions head coach Tuesday.

Belichick places a high value on special teams, as he annually devotes a handful of roster spots to players who exclusively play in the kicking game.

In 2017, the Patriots finished third in Rick Gosselin's annual special-teams rankings, which Belichick has previously cited his respect for as a measure of performance for that unit.

Judge, 36, has been with the Patriots since 2012, first serving as assistant special-teams coach under Scott O'Brien before taking over the top job in 2015. Before coming to New England, he spent three seasons at Alabama on Nick Saban's staff and was part of two national championship teams.

A Philadelphia native, Judge played at Mississippi State from 2000 to '04 before transitioning into his coaching career, first working as a graduate assistant at his alma mater (2005-2007) before spending a year at Birmingham-Southern (2008).