While New England stepped out of the Darrelle Revis sweepstakes, they didn't stop trying to move forward in 2015. There are two ways to build a defense, and both can be successful: 1) have a shutdown secondary; 2) have a beastly pass rush.
Teams that have both, like Seattle, can offer all-time defenses. You can win a Super Bowl with just one of them. With the loss of Revis, it's clear the Patriots are going to try and soup up their defensive front seven to compensate for their cornerback coverage.
The Patriots signed Jabaal Sheard and it's a totally awesome move.
Jabaal Sheard made a tackle resulting in an defensive stop on 8.9% of his run defense snaps, the highest of all 3-4 OLBs— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 11, 2015
Sheard is a great run stopper in any defense. He's a better pass rusher in the 4-3. He plays left defensive end, similar to Rob Ninkovich. He plays right outside linebacker, where Chandler Jones would drop into coverage. He's big and stout at 6'3, 265-pounds and he's a force as a pass rusher.
Ninkovich has led the league in snaps by a defensive lineman over the past three seasons. Chandler Jones led defensive linemen in snaps last season. The Patriots function by fielded these two for 100% of the snaps and it's a major issue when there's no depth- and Akeem Ayers won't be up for a trade every season.
Sheard will allow the Patriots to sit Ninkovich and Jones to keep them fresher and hopefully more effective throughout the season. The Patriots are in nickel so often that there's no question that all three edge defenders can see the field for 70% of the defensive snaps.
The Patriots are showing interest in free agent defensive tackle Nick Fairley, per source.— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) March 11, 2015
If the Patriots want to add more pressure from the defensive line, Fairley is a good place to start. I thought that the Patriots were interested in changing their defensive front to a more penetrating unit with the drafting of Dominique Easley, and that philosophy would be solidified with the signing of Fairley.
He's an angry player up the middle of the field who would be devastating in any front. He might sign for a one-year "prove it" deal due to his injury history, but he's still productive.
Don't count out the return of Big Vince. There's cap space for him and he'd help keep the new defensive linemen in check. The Texans are a front runner for Wilfork due to their history as Patriots South and that would put Wilfork on next season's schedule.
Knighton almost single handedly destroyed the Patriots offensive line and Logan Mankins' final game in New England in the 2013 AFC Championship game. He seemed to have a quieter season this year and he's asking for a huge price tag, so it's doubtful the Patriots interest is anything more than cursory.
The Dolphins released Starks today and he would be a great body to add to the defensive line. He can play in the 3-4 and the 4-3, he can single and double gap, he can stuff the run and push the pocket. He'd be a quality addition.
I hear Percy Harvin to the Patriots is looking like it may happen.— Sharks of Vegas (@SharksOfVegas) March 11, 2015
Don't kill me too bad if Percy signs elsewhere. FA is VERY fluid. Just heard the deal is closer than people think.— Sharks of Vegas (@SharksOfVegas) March 11, 2015
I'm only posting this contact because they were correct on basically every turn during DeflateGate. This will be an interesting storyline to follow.
Depth Wide Receivers and Special Teams
#Patriots officially announce signings of WRs Kevin Dorsey and Brandon Gibson.— Tim Whelan Jr. (@thattimwhelan) March 11, 2015
Patriots also signed former Raiders DB Chimdi Chekwa to a 1 year deal. Chekwa enters his 5th NFL season. 6-0, 190. Played at Ohio State.— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) March 11, 2015
Gibson was connected to the Patriots yesterday, while New England worked out Dorsey earlier and finally decided to bring him aboard.
The Patriots also signed Brian Tyms to a new contract.
Chekwa is primarily a special teams gunner and would fill a similar role to Don Jones.
Brandon Browner is linked to Washington and the Saints.
C.J. Spiller to the Patriots is looking less likely every day as DeMarco Murray drives up running back prices.
Reggie Bush was with the 49ers today.