Third in a ten part series that ranks the Patriots top offseason moves.
On Thursday, we detailed the Patriots addition of veteran defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene as the team's #9 offseason move. Today, we look at the addition of veteran defensive back Steve Gregory, whose signing ranks as the #8 move of the offseason.
Heading into the offseason, most fans and media analysts believed that the Patriots most pressing need was at safety. It would be hard to disagree with that sentiment. In 2011, the Patriots featured the second worst passing defense of All-Time, and had a revolving door at safety that never really ceased, even into the postseason. Long-time contributors Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders were released in the preseason (along with veteran Brandon McGowan), with Patrick Chung the only key player from 2010 at the position returning. During the year, the Patriots ended up losing Chung for eight games, early season starter Josh Barrett for the season, James Ihedigbo for stretches during games with a shoulder injury, and were forced to bench Sergio Brown due to poor play on the back-end. Even cornerbacks Devin McCourty and Sterling Moore were forced to play the position for stretches.
The two things that the Patriots lacked at the position in 2011 were consistency and reliability. The Patriots simply didn't know who they could rely on at safety week-to-week. So when the Patriots signed longtime Charger and veteran safety Steve Gregory in March, those were the first factors that came to mind: reliability and consistency.
During his six years with the Chargers, Gregory was never really a top-tier talent. Nonetheless, he was a consistent role player who did his job and eventually became a full-time starter in 2010. While Gregory will likely be used as a free safety opposite Patrick Chung in 2012, he has experience playing both safety spots as well as the slot cornerback position.
The addition of Gregory wasn't the type of move to make major headlines - but it is a very solid one at that. The Patriots signed Gregory to a three year, $8.5 million contract, which is very reasonable by all accounts. Gregory is still only 29, and should still be a nice piece at age 31. It's not as if he's getting paid top dollar. Should a player such as Tavon Wilson emerge and become the better option at safety, it's not as if Gregory is getting paid too much to be a role player in the defensive backfield.
In 2012, however, I expect Gregory to start for the Patriots. I expect him to be a solid player. And most of all, I expect him to bring a little more reliability and consistency to the Patriots defensive backfield. If he can do those things, then this move will go down as an excellent one for the Patriots.