By now everyone knows the New England Patriots did something they rarely do in free agency — they made a splash. The Patriots signed cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. The jury may still be out on whether or not the Browner signing is great for the Patriots, but the Revis signing may be the best free agent acquisition of 2014. So let’s assume the Patriots’ secondary is exponentially better in 2014 than it was in 2013. That will certainly help the defense as a whole, but there is still something the Patriots must address on defense: Their front seven. The Patriots must work on acquiring the personnel needed to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
LB Jerod Mayo is returning which will certainly help, but LB Brandon Spikes has now moved north and joined the Buffalo Bills, another AFC East team. With Spikes gone, Mayo will most likely be back at middle linebacker. This means Mayo would not really be an asset as a pass rusher. The Patriots still have Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, but if the Patriots want to contend for and win another Super Bowl (and we all know they do), they sorely need more depth at defensive end. So what should the Patriots do? They could and should go after free agent DE Jared Allen.
If that doesn’t work, what about targeting Robert Ayers or Shaun Phillips, both of whom played for the Denver Broncos last season?
Ayers is among the best free agents still available. Denver selected him with the No. 18 overall pick in the 2009, and he has moved to defensive end after starting his NFL career as an outside linebacker. It’s true Ayers may not be the flashiest or most spectacular player, but he is good at stopping the run and has shown the ability to get to the quarterback. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is a defensive mastermind, and he would know how to use Ayers. And if he is used correctly, Ayers could be a really good addition to the Patriots.
Phillips is who the Patriots should really target if they are unable to acquire Allen. Phillips is 32 years old and had 10.0 sacks and two forced fumbles for Denver in 2013 while making only $1 million on a one-year deal. Phillips is getting up there in age, but he has had seven or more sacks in eight of his 10 seasons. The fact that he had 10.0 sacks in 2013 makes it difficult to believe his productivity would just fall off of a cliff. The Patriots need to try to work out a cap-friendly deal (maybe two years) that is incentive laden.
Patriots fans want to see their team hosting the Lombardi Trophy again, and to do that the Patriots will need to work on their front seven. It’s a passing league, and the Patriots need to be able to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks.