While Bill cruises around Nantucket Bay in “VII Rings” appearing to be relaxed and carefree while basking in the sunshine — the cool refreshing mist of the Atlantic on his face — his mind is racing.
Behind that facade of a smirk on his face he’s thinking about football.
One can only imagine the genius level of complexity contained in a Bill Belichick daydream about football. Route trees, personnel groupings, footwork drills — who knows. But one must assume that somewhere in the reverie there must be a worry or two about the team’s current depth chart and its potential thin spots — and how to bolster them.
Bill is certainly isn’t a stranger when it comes to the veteran free agent market each summer. This year’s group is still stocked with household names who are either looking for one last solid pay day, or simply have lost one too many steps in the eyes of pro-personnel departments around the NFL.
Here are two of those thin spots — with a economical, experienced name that could fill each need.
When looking over the team’s current crop of off-the-ball linebackers, something still feels like it’s missing. Aside from Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy appears to be the firmest lock for the 53-man roster. Some would also consider Shea McClellin in the conversation as well, but his nearly $3.3 million 2017 cap figure doesn’t quite jibe with his 2016 production, which could cast doubt over his status as a lock.
There are numerous veteran linebacker options still available. Perry Riley, who had a fabulous year with Oakland in 2016, remains unsigned, while guys like David Harris and D’Qwell Jackson still seek suitors as well. DeAndre Levy is another intriguing name, but no reports have surfaced on the status of his health following yet another knee procedure in April.
If the Patriots are looking to add a cost-effective option while still acquiring a player with substantial NFL experience, there is a current free agent who checks both boxes.
Bynes enters his seventh year in the league after going undrafted in 2011. He spent his first three seasons in Baltimore, starting out on the practice squad before being summoned to the 53-man roster due to injuries in 2012, starting three games during the Raven’s Super Bowl winning season.
In 2014 Jim Caldwell, former Raven’s Offensive Coordinator and new Lions Head Coach had Bynes plucked from Baltimore’s practice squad. He played in thirteen games that year, contributing primarily on special teams while veterans Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy ate up a majority of the defensive snaps. In 2015 he started 11 games in Levy’s absence.
Last September the former Auburn Tiger was released with an injury settlement before later being resigned by Detroit. He was immediately plugged in and contributed some solid production in nine games — eight of which he started.
Depth on the interior of the offensive line is an area of discussion that has garnered some attention since draft-day rumors of the team’s interest in Indiana guard Dan Freeny surfaced.
It’s important to note that in each of the past three seasons the Patriots have carried ten linemen coming out of camp — four tackles and six interior players. After counting four tackles (Solder, Cannon, Garcia, and Fleming the most likely group) and three interior starters, Ted Karras is the interior depth option with the most realistic chance of making the 53-man roster as it stands today.
Behind Karras are 2016 practice squad members Chase Ferris and Jamil Douglas, who need to make giant strides in order to avoid a similar destiny in 2017. It can’t be assumed that either player will make such a leap, which leaves the team with eight total linemen on the initial 53-man roster — two shy of the norm. The addition of another veteran presence on the interior is in no way out of the question.
This University of Virginia product is entering his sixth year in the league after spending the first three with Jacksonville, and the last two with Cleveland. He’s started forty-three career games, including all sixteen last season for the Browns — the first fifteen of which were at right tackle, the final coming at right guard.
While Pasztor’s play was considered unspectacular in 2016 by many around Cleveland, he still put up a respectable 77.3 PFF grade over the course of 1,020 snaps on an abysmal offense with a horrendous quarterback situation. Many believed he would still land a free agent contract given the thin tackle market this offseason, but it simply never materialized. His abundance of NFL experience combined with a shrinking window to sign on with a team could be a match for both the player and the team, should the Patriots come calling.