BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots will be in the market for a new defensive end this offseason. Chris Long announced on his Instagram account on Wednesday that he intends to leave the Patriots and sign with a new team after he becomes an unrestricted free agent on March 9.

Long played in all 16 games for the Patriots in 2016, starting seven and recording 4 sacks to go with 22 total tackles. His snap counts, however, steadily declined from Week 17 on. Long was on the field for only 15 plays in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons.

Despite Long’s severely limited role in the Super Bowl, he came up with one of the biggest plays of the game when he drew a holding penalty against Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews. The flag pushed the Falcons out of field goal range and forced them to punt, which allowed Tom Brady to drive the Patriots down the field and tie the game at 28. Of course, the Patriots went on to win 34-28 and complete the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.

Thank you Pats Nation. As a player you've given so much support to, I owe you an explanation as to why I'll be moving on in FA... even if it isn't a big deal. This year and this opportunity gave me a ton. I made lifelong friends in a great locker room and became a champion. I'm so thankful that Coach B (the GOAT) took a chance on me and allowed me the opportunity to play a small part in this wonderful year. This has zero to do with money, etc. It's the right move in my heart because I want to get back to being the player I was before. I'm thankful for my role this year, but as a competitor, I'm itching to do what I do best. It was important to say thank you personally. You may not remember me much, but I'll always remember y'all!! #driveforfive #missionaccomplished

A post shared by Chris Long 🆑⚡️ (@laflamablanca95) on

Long’s comments about his “role” suggest that he is seeking a more regular role with a new team, rather than a rotational role like he had with the Patriots. He also may be seeking to play for a defense that would turn him loose more, rather than Belichick’s more conservative approach with defensive linemen.

With both Long and Jabaal Sheard expected to leave via unrestricted free agency, the Patriots will be left with rising star Trey Flowers as the only pure defensive end on the 2017 roster. Rob Ninkovich is also likely to contribute at that spot, but expect the Patriots to add at least one or two edge defenders in free agency and/or April’s NFL Draft.

[graphiq id=”eVLI8HHnEkl” title=”Chris Long Defensive Numbers in 2016″ width=”600″ height=”522″ url=”” link=”” link_text=”PointAfter | Graphiq” ]

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