By now, you've probably heard the news: the New England Patriots have signed former USC standout and CFL All-Star Armond Armstead to a contract. A few of my thoughts on the move:
Help at a position of need. Not even 48 hours into their offseason, this can be seen as a fairly significant move for the Patriots. Heading into this offseason, defensive tackle was a clear position of need for the team. During the 2012 season, the team was unhappy enough with their production at the position that they replaced starter Kyle Love with the more athletic Brandon Deaderick. Deaderick was average, so it wouldn't be out of the question to think the team is looking for more. Armond Armstead is far from a sure bet, but he's a talented prospect with upside.
Top prospect to add to low number of draft choices. The Patriots have only five selections in the upcoming draft, and three in the first three rounds. Normally, we're used to seeing the Patriots picking multiple times per round on days one and two. With Armond Armstead in the mix, the Patriots are given a high upside rookie prospect who should compete immediately with the top draft picks the team eventually brings in. As ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote earlier this month, the team that signed Armstead would be "getting the equivalent of a high draft pick months before the April draft." If the Patriots value Armstead similarly, it could allow them to focus on other positions of need come April's draft.
Good versatile piece that will fit in nicely with the Patriots scheme. Armstead is the type of body that can fit in at a number of potential spots for the Patriots, in multiple schemes as well. His H/W/S could draw Richard Seymour comparisons. While those are likely a tad unrealistic, it's not inconceivable to think that Armstead could play the 5-technique that Seymour played for the Patriots, due to his height and strength. He also showcases a fair share of athleticism that can help him get to the quarterback, and his skillset could actually compliment Vince Wilfork really nicely in even fronts. At a minimum, he could help in sub-packages - likely as a rookie. The Patriots didn't get much pressure on opposing quarterbacks from their defensive tackles in 2012, and that's an area where Armstead figures to help.
Overall, this is a classic low-risk, high-reward deal for the Patriots. And while it is likely to fall under the NFL radar because of its timing, it's a major move that could pay real dividends down the road for New England.