FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's been a whirlwind of an offseason for Jalen Mills. Once the dust settled, however, he found himself back where he's been for the past two seasons -- inside New England's secondary. Mind you, that doesn't come without some bumps along the way. It was initially planned for the Patriots to release him back in March, seemingly cutting his tenure short. But five days later, the team instead opted to revise his contract and bring him back on a one-year deal.
In lockstep with the news of his return came the nugget that Mills would be coming back to Foxborough to play a new position. Instead of manning his familiar post on the outside as a corner, the plan is for Mills to transition to safety to help fill the void left by Devin McCourty, who retired this offseason.
"Jalen's a smart kid," Bill Belichick said of Mills' versatility. "He's got a lot of playing experience in different spots. He's done a good job for us."
This isn't a totally foreign change for Mills as he has played safety at times during his NFL career, but has primarily been a corner throughout his time with New England.
"It's been good, man," Mills said of his reps at safety. "Been getting some really good coaching tips from the coaches and just trying to go out there and execute at a really high level."
Mills was slotted as a safety throughout Tuesday's OTA session, lining up in the slot at times while also backing deep into coverage.
"It gives me the ability to not only show my versatility but be around the ball a little more and make more plays," said Mills.
As it relates to when and where he lines up on the field during practice, Mills said, "It's really on [the coaches] and the guys in the secondary. I might be out there with [Jabrill Peppers] and [Kyle Dugger] and they'll be like 'Hey Mills, go to nickel this drive' or they might be like, 'Go get on a tight end this drive' or they might be like 'Go to the middle this drive.'
"We always talk about the versatility of guys being able to play every different thing because now quarterbacks can't just say, 'This guy's going to be here and this guy's going to be there. This is what they're in.'"
Belichick has routinely noted that this period of the offseason is for teaching the fundamentals rather than going through a full evaluation process. With that in mind, when asked directly about Mills moving to safety, he said, "We're working a lot of guys in a lot of different positions now, so we'll see how it all plays out.
"Let them compete, see where the team needs different guys, and see how it goes. We want to give players an opportunity to learn multiple spots. I think that helps them understand the overall system, but also gives them a chance to compete at different spots, so we'll see how it plays out."
In 10 games played at corner last season, Mills totaled 31 tackles, broke up five passes, and recorded two interceptions.