Travis LaBoy. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
There are very few positions on the Patriots' roster with complete question marks; outside linebacker is one of them. After opting to not draft a prospect early in the draft, the Patriots enter the 2011 with the same group of players that ended the season together. The group played at a solid level at the end of the season, but was unspectacular as injuries ended any type of momentum. Perhaps this unit will thrive with a full season under its belt, as well as a long summer to heal from injuries. If not, here's a potential option:
Position: Outside Linebacker
Former Team: San Francisco 49ers
Strengths: Extremely able to rush the passer. Showed athleticism in college by grabbing five interceptions. Defended two passes last season. Forces fumbles. Reliable for 4-6 sacks a season in a limited role. Presents solid size at 6-3, 250 lbs and can run a 4.7s 40. Able to stop the run.
Weaknesses: Has yet to play a full 16 game season, most usually due to an injury. Has had concussions, bicep injuries, and knee injuries which have forced him to miss time. LaBoy has never been asked to be "the man" and was utilized as a rotational player.
Summary: LaBoy would be able to greatly improve the Patriots' pass rush, will not surrendering much in the run defense game. He would most likely be utilized in a rotation, which fits well with the Patriots' defensive scheme. He won't be an expensive player and will be turning 30 this summer, which makes him a prime candidate for a 2 year deal to see if he can succeed.
Verdict: I really like the speed and energy that LaBoy brings to the field and he plays sturdy. He seems to play well with his hand in the dirt (think Eric Moore last season), but he does seem to have potential to drop back. I would hope the Patriots give LaBoy a look during this short off-season as a potential signing if a player is injured (put LaBoy on the "Pierre Woods Injured Reserve" emergency roster). I don't think the Patriots will sign LaBoy, but he could be a solid option should injuries force the Patriots to make a roster move.