FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Davon Godchaux came to New England a year ago in large part for the chance play in a Bill Belichick-coached defense.
The lineman said seizing on the opportunity to extend that relationship — and continue to play an integral role in the unit’s ongoing makeover — was an easy decision.
A day after signing a two-year, $20.8 million extension with the Patriots, Godchaux said he’s using it as motivation to help the Patriots improve on a run defense that again ranked near the bottom of the league in 2021.
“It shows appreciation for all the hard work. Fourth year in the league, coming off a bicep injury and coming into an organization like this there’s a lot expected,” Godchaux said Thursday, a day after signing a deal that agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed includes $17.85 million in guaranteed dollars. “I wanted to make sure I lived up to those expectations.”
The Patriots signed Godchaux as part of their 2021 free agency spending spree after he played his first four years in the league in Miami where he was mostly a backup, appearing in all 16 games in 2018 and 2019. He accounted for 123 tackles and three sacks over that span, but played in only five games in 2020 before going on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.
It made him a prime target for New England, which needed to beef up its run defense following a 2020 season in which it ranked 26th in the NFL, allowing 131.4 rushing yards per game.
The Patriots initially secured the services of Godchaux with a two-year, $16 million deal ($9 million guaranteed) that put him in position to play a bigger role than he had with the Dolphins.
“It fits me. I feel like when I first signed here, this was home,” Godchaux said. “Coming from Miami with coach (Brian) Flores he ran the same system and I came here and I feel like I was a plug and play. Bill, he’s honest. Positive criticism. He’s gonna hold you accountable. I needed a coach like that and when I got here it was everything I thought it was.”
While Godchaux often parrots the “Stop the run, have some fun” mantra drilled into him in college when he played under former LSU coach Ed Orgeron, his addition only led to slight improvements by the Patriots in 2021. They allowed opponents to rush for 126.5 yards per game (24th in NFL).
But Godchaux was a big reason for that improvement, leading all Patriot defensive linemen with 65 combined tackles.
He said New England’s scheme brings out the best parts of his game.
“It’s real football. It’s Bill Parcells. Real football utilizing our eyes, hands and feet,” Godchaux said. “It helps you grow. It helps you succeed.”
Belichick said his efforts last season made locking him up for two more years a priority.
“He’s one of the best defensive linemen in the league,” Belichick said. “I’m glad we were able to work that out with Davon and Drew and get it done. Both sides are happy, contract signed, and we’ll go forward.”
For Godchaux, it’s all fuel as he looks to make strides during his second year in New England.
He said he feels like he’s still growing as he enters his sixth NFL season.
“I’m glad to get the praise from Bill, but there’s still more work to do,” he said. “Still learning entering Year 6. Lot of people look at me like an old guy, but I look at me as I’m still young. I’ve been starting all six years in the league. Thank God. Keep the leadership. I’m not really a big ‘rah-rah guy.’ I’m more leading by example.”
That included walking into the facility following his latest pay increase with the same mentality he toted when he arrived prior to last season.
“I’m never gonna let the money change me,” Godchaux said. “Still the same person. Still the same hunger. Each and every day I’m gonna play the same way.”