The New England Patriots do not have an obvious need at defensive tackle. DT Malcom Brown and DT Vincent Valentine are still growing on their rookie contracts, while DT Woodrow Hamilton played well and earned an active roster salary while he finished the year on the practice squad. The Patriots really like their young talent on the defensive interior.
Factor in free agent DT Alan Branch, who is coming off his best season as a pro, and it’d be easy to argue the team has no need at the position.
But one clear hole on the defensive interior relates to rushing the quarterback, where DT Dominique Easley starred on third down in 2014-15 and EDGE Trey Flowers kicked inside during 2016. The Patriots really would like to have a player that can contribute a consistent pass rush from the interior.
So what about free agent DT Jared Odrick?
Odrick is a former 1st round pick in the 2010 draft that spent five seasons with the Miami Dolphins before signing a 5-year, $42.5 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2015. Odrick started every game of his Jaguars tenure, but finished the 2016 season on the injured reserve after just 6 games with an elbow injury.
The Jaguars opted to release Odrick instead of paying him the $7.5 million he was due on March 13th, allowing Odrick to start shopping his skill set prior to free agency.
The Patriots interest in Odrick goes way back in time, as the Patriots reportedly loved Odrick heading into the 2010 NFL Draft, per WEEI. The Patriots were also regarded as one of the best fits for Odrick in 2015 free agency.
The 6’5, 305 pound Odrick is almost an exact replica of former Patriots DL Ty Warren from a physical standpoint and offers versatility that the Patriots will love.
The Dolphins used Odrick as a 3-4 defensive end, a 4-3 defensive end, and a 4-3 defensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus. His best seasons came as a 4-3 defensive tackle, where he starred as a pass rusher, while easily his worst came as a 4-3 defensive end.
Jared Odrick graded at +19.1 as a pass rusher the last two seasons. Graded negatively against the run every year of career until 2014 (+1.0)— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 9, 2015
Well, the Jaguars, in all of their intelligence and glory, decided to cast Odrick as a 4-3 defensive end and of course he struggled.
Since the Patriots don’t use defensive tackles in the 4-3 defensive end role, it would seem like the Jaguars used Odrick in literally only way the Patriots wouldn’t. Since the Jaguars are retaining their defensive coordinator and possibly their entire defensive scheme during their coaching change-up, it makes sense that Jacksonville would want to cut ties with a player that wasn’t a fit.
The 29-year-old Odrick is a quality defensive tackle that is capable of playing a high volume of snaps- he has been a 75%+ snap type of player during his career. 2016 was the first season that Odrick missed time since his rookie season in 2010.
The Patriots could feature Odrick as a third down pass rusher, while he could also contribute against the run. While it’s clear the Patriots would love to have DT Alan Branch back in the fold, Odrick could serve as viable alternative. Additionally, the Patriots will likely want competition for a possible 4th defensive tackle role in case Woodrow Hamilton doesn’t take a step forward as a sophomore.
Of course Odrick likely won’t be without suitors with potentially larger roles. Odrick drew attention from both the Raiders and the Broncos during free agency in 2015, and both teams- the Broncos, especially- have a more clear path to a starting job.
Head coach Bill Belichick should call up Odrick to see if he’s interested in winning after struggling with the Dolphins and Jaguars. The defensive tackle would be a great fit for the New England defense and could recapture his previous form on the Patriots interior.