The New England Patriots signed former Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Tommy Kelly to a two-year deal Monday. There is no question the move is a solid acquisition that will improve New England’s defensive line immensely for next season.
Kelly was a remarkable player for Oakland over the past 10 years. He has not missed a game in five straight seasons, and proved to be a legitimate threat in the middle over that span. He has recorded 420 combined tackles, 34.5 sacks, nine forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception in 129 career games. Not to mention, the 32-year-old recorded 101 combined tackles and 14.5 sacks in 2010 and 2011.
Unfortunately, he posted one of his worst seasons in recent years in 2013, which gave the Raiders the confidence to release him even though the veteran still had two years remaining on his seven-year, $50.1 million contract. Clearly, the Patriots did not sign Kelly for the 45 tackles and one sack he posted last season, but what he has been able to accomplish on the gridiron over several years.
Even though it was only his second year in the league at the time, New England head coach Bill Belichick had much respect for Kelly.
“Tommy Kelly is one of the best defensive linemen in the league. He’s an outstanding player,” Belichick said back in 2005, according to ESPN.com.
Considering the Patriots have a good idea of what their starters will look like along the defensive line next season, Kelly will most likely prove to be a terrific backup. However, there is no denying that Kelly is talented enough to win a starting job next to nose tackle Vince Wilfork. If anything, he will be a solid lineman for automatic passing situations because of his natural ability to get to the quarterback.