As we've reported since January, the Patriots are expecting all of their Covid opt-outs to return to the fold. Now, whether they make the team come September is a different story.
But let's deal with the known entities, namely Dont'a Hightower and Patrick Chung.
It would be a huge shock if they are not part of this team come September, even if you think they're making too much money: $12.45 million cap number for Hightower in the final year of his deal (could be up for a short extension), and $5.133 million for Chung, who is signed through 2024(!) when he will be 37. Belichick loves Chung, especially.
Hightower proved his value to this team while sitting on the sidelines, as the linebacker position was pretty much a trainwreck without him. They need him badly, and it will likely be back in the middle unless they sign someone to play there.
Chung? That's a different conversation. He'll be 34 this season, and it seems like he has a tougher time getting to the end of each passing season with injuries.
Plus, the team made Kyle Dugger their first draft pick last year, and Adrian Phillips played great and is five years younger than Chung.
So how do the Patriots fit the pieces? That's where the defensive line comes in. And instead of subtracting someone, the Patriots could go a little bit more aggressive to amp up the defense.