The New England Patriots reached an agreement on a two-year deal with defensive lineman Tommy Kelly. The 32-year-old has spent his entire nine year career with the Oakland Raiders, who released him on March 27th.
Kelly did not have a particularly strong season this past year, as he recorded just one sack and tallied only six quarterback hits and 12 hurries. But Kelly has been a consistently good pass rusher, as he racked up 7.5 sacks in 2011 and has totaled 34.5 sacks in NFL career. Kelly is a very durable player, starting all 16 games in each of the past five seasons.
Bill Belichick gave immense praise to Kelly back when he was a member of the Raiders in 2005.
“Tommy Kelly is one of the best defensive linemen in the league. He’s an outstanding player,” Belichick said before the 2005 Patriots-Raiders season opener.
“Kelly plays everywhere. He’s a little bit like Howie Long in that Howie Long was a guy that they would move along on the front. They would take Howie and mismatch him against whoever they thought the other team’s worst lineman was. There is a little bit of that with Tommy Kelly too, find a guy that they want to go after and stick him there because he does have the flexibility to play outside and inside. He can pretty much play across the board. He can do everything. Play the run, rush the passer, he’s good in pursuit. He’s a very physical player. He’s pretty good.”
While Kelly never lived up to the extreme praise of Belichick, Kelly can deliver a boost to the Patriots’ defensive line. He has the potential to generate more pass rush for the Patriots, something the team relied heavily on Vince Wilfork to do in recent seasons. Wilfork is still playing at an elite level but the 31-year-old needed some help on the defensive line and Kelly should be able to provide some necessary assistance.
With the signing of Kelly, the Patriots continue to strengthen their defense, which has failed them in recent playoff games. Re-signing cornerback Aqib Talib, signing safety Adrian Wilson and now adding Tommy Kelly will make this defense much more ferocious for the 2013 campaign.