LB Jahlani Tavai, Patriots agree to two-year extension

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Linebacker Jahlani Tavai, who has developed into a productive starter on the New England Patriots' defense after not panning out with the Detroit Lions, agreed to a two-year contract extension with the team Tuesday.

The extension is worth $4.4 million, a source told ESPN's Field Yates.

Tavai has played in 11 games this season, with seven starts, and has totaled 38 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

His versatility to play both inside and outside linebacker roles has helped him carve out a productive role, as he's played 52.4% of the defensive snaps this year.

It's a notable turnaround for Tavai, 26, who entered the NFL as a highly touted second-round draft choice of the Lions in 2019.

"Jahlani's done a good job for us. Played a lot of football, on every down. Smart versatile player that's earned playing time," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday, noting that Tavai was scheduled to be a free agent after the season.

Tavai, who had starred in college at Hawaii, lasted just two seasons in Detroit. He was a favorite of then-head coach Matt Patricia, the longtime New England assistant, and ultimately followed Patricia to the Patriots in 2021. Tavai initially was a member of the Patriots' practice squad that season before he was signed to the 53-man roster early in the year, playing mostly as a backup.

This year, the 6-foot-2, 246-pound Tavai has teamed with starter Ja'Whaun Bentley to form an early-down 1-2 combination, while also playing a key role on the punt-protection unit.

"It's a big thing for me, my second contract. I'm just blessed to have an opportunity to play football," Tavai said Tuesday.

Tavai also will receive an $850,000 signing bonus, and his cap charge increases by $383,000 this season.

The Patriots (6-5) host the Buffalo Bills (8-3) on Thursday night. In each of the last two matchups between the teams, the Patriots' defense hasn't forced the Bills to punt.