Yesterday, the Patriots released two veteran defensive linemen in Will Smith and Tommy Kelly.
The release of Smith didn't come as much of a surprise. He hadn't shown too much in 1 vs. 1's or in game action, and he wasn't exactly a fit for the base 3-4 the Patriots seem to be trending back towards.
Kelly, on the other hand, looked like a good bet to make the team. The paycut he took early in the offseason made his cap hit manageable. He had been a starter from day one of camp and looked like one of the best players on the field in the Patriots' second preseason game against the Eagles.
Nonetheless, the Patriots have moved on from Kelly. So where do they go from here at defensive tackle? Let's take a look at the options, from multiple scheme perspectives:
Sealver Siliga: Currently nursing a hand injury. Is a multiple-gap plugger in the role of Vince Wilfork. Won't factor in much in sub-packages, but could likely play either DT spot in a 4-3, as well as LE or NT in the 3-4. Likely starter in 4-3.
Dominique Easley: Rookie DL inching closer to being game ready. Primary role will likely be as a sub-package pass rusher, but could figure into 4-3 base as a DT (or perhaps a 5-tech / RE in 3-4).
Joe Vellano: Has been impressive in training camp and preseason and has likely earned himself a roster spot. Won't hold up as 2-gapper, but could play RE in one-gap 3-4 and DT in 4-3. Primary use will be in sub-packages.
Chris Jones: Recovering from an ankle injury. Role will be similar to Vellano's, although he could see more time in base defense.
Jerel Worthy: Recent trade acquisition who did flash a bit against the Panthers. Has experience as a 5-technique in the 3-4 while with Green Bay, he could offer the Patriots some versatility if he makes the roster.
Others: Ben Bass, Eathyn Manumaleuna, L.T. Tuiulotu
At the defensive end spot, Smith's release ensures that the Patriots will likely keep both Michael Buchanan and Zach Moore on the 53. That position appears to be one that the Patriots may yet address - whether through a waiver wire pick-up or early season veteran addition (perhaps Andre Carter?).