The New England Patriots stayed away from the high priced options in free agency this year, but they still managed to add a high level talent in defensive tackle Terrance Knighton. While Knighton is a downgrade based on 2015 performances from Akiem Hicks, who left for the Bears in free agency, he could wind up as one of the bigger bargains this year.
According to Pro Football Focus, Knighton is under the 4th best defensive tackle contract in the NFL with his one-year, $1.75 million deal with $300,000 in incentives.
Knighton graded out as PFF’s 9th and 11th best defensive tackles in the NFL in the 2013 and 2014 seasons while he was with Denver in a 4-man defensive line. Knighton, who turned 30 years old on the 4th of July, was a great run stuffing defender and also found ways to dominate the line of scrimmage against the pass.
While Knighton’s play declined in 2015 with Washington’s 3-man defensive front, he was still a great run stopper, which will likely be his role with the Patriots, and he improved as the season wore on.
Knighton joins sophomore Malcom Brown and veteran Alan Branch as the likely rotational trio on the front line, and both Knighton and Branch will be charged will grooming 3rd round rookie Vincent Valentine and helping him transition into the NFL.
The Patriots will maximize Knighton’s snaps against the run and will put him back in a 4-man defensive line in the hope that he will reclaim his former elite ability. With a low, low price tag, there’s a good chance that Knighton could yield one of the best returns from this free agency period.