Our friend Mike Sando over at ESPN compiled a list of the best and worst free agent signings from this past offseason and there is a Patriot on the right side of the ledger.
Contractual value: The Patriots signed Sheard to a two-year, $11 million contract with $5.5 million guaranteed.
Production: Sheard has seven sacks and three forced fumbles in 11 games. The Patriots emerged from Week 15 tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 47. They rank eighth in defensive expected points added per game. Sheard's addition has allowed the Patriots to rest teammates Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich.
Lasting lesson: Defensive coaches with chameleon tendencies can find ways to use versatile rotation players.
Who saw this coming? Well, pretty much everyone.
We've been talking about the need for a third defensive end due to the ludicrous number of snaps for Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, and how the simple addition of Sheard would give the Patriots their best pass rushing rotation in the Bill Belichick-era.
Other teams knew that Sheard was going to be a star, too.
Text from one league source on Patriots landing former Browns LB/DE Jabaal Sheard: "Will be top 5 signing of free agency, guarantee it."— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2015
The presence of Sheard has allowed the Patriots to reduce the snaps of Jones and Ninkovich from nearly 100% to the mid-80s, as Sheard has played roughly 65% of the snaps. The Patriots have this trio under contract for another season, in addition to having both rookie Trey Flowers and preseason stud Rufus Johnson on the injured reserve.
The Patriots pass rush will be great for the foreseeable future.
Cornerback Brandon Browner ranks as the worst free agent signing as his play (dead last according to Pro Football Focus) and penalties (leads the league) make him a real detriment to the Saints secondary. The Patriots decided not to pick up Browner's contract prior to the 2015 season.