Update: The New England Patriots believe that rookie EDGE Derek Rivers might be lost for the season with a knee injury.
After New England Patriots pass rushing rookies Derek Rivers (hurt his knee) and Deatrich Wise (hurt his head) suffered injuries, and after veteran acquisition Kony Ealy (hurt his shoulder) was nicked up in practice, a pretty obvious question is What can the Patriots do to help their pass rush?
There are three choices that the Patriots could make to supplement the currently-injured pass rush with a veteran and they are to sign a veteran free agent, acquire a player via trade, and to move around another player on the team to bolster the position.
The Patriots are likely to face the Houston Texans with Trey Flowers, Ealy, and Geneo Grissom as the top three edge defenders, which should really hammer home the need for additional talent at the position.
Here are some players that could help.
Veteran Free Agent
Paul Kruger: The 6’4, 270 pounder played with the Ravens from 2009-12, the Browns from 2013-15, and the Saints in 2016. He had his best seasons under former Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees (Ravens, 2012, 9 sacks) and in Ray Horton’s hybrid 3-4/4-3 front (Browns, 2014, 11 sacks). The 31-year-old might fit in well with the Patriots.
Dwight Freeney: Belichick has always praised the former Colts stud and the 37-year-old, 6’1, 265 pound rusher has collected 11 sacks and 3 forced fumbles over the past two years as a sub-rusher. Freeney wouldn’t have to shoulder the load, but he could be a good veteran that teaches the rookies and plays as the third or fourth man on the depth chart.
Eugene Sims: The 31-year-old Sims spent the past 7 seasons with the Rams. Sims is not an exceptionally flashy player- the 6’6, 270 pounder has 12 sacks in his career- but he’d be a cheap veteran that could be released once everyone is healthy.
Mario Williams: The 32-year-old 6’6, 300 pound Williams had his passion for football called out over the past two seasons, but he’s still able to contribute on the field. He could be a good fit in the Patriots hybrid defense and could push for playing time.
Jared Odrick: The 6’5, 295 pound Odrick is still just 29 years old, but remains a free agent after finishing the 2016 season with a shoulder injury. Odrick passed a physical with the Patriots in March, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Odrick is at his best as an interior player, but offers value all over the defensive line.
Lamarr Houston: The 30-year-old Houston is 6’3, 275 pounds and plays defensive end in a hybrid 3/4-4/3 front. He has torn his ACL in two of his past three seasons (2014, 2016), but recorded 8 sacks in 2015. Perhaps Houston could be available for a late round draft pick.
Za’Darius Smith: Smith is in his third year in the NFL, but the Ravens have invested heavily at the position with 2016 second rounder Kamalei Correa, 2016 fifth rounder Matthew Judon, 2017 second rounder Tyus Bowser, and 2017 third rounder Tim Williams, in addition to veterans Terrell Suggs and Albert McClellan. Smith recorded 5.5 sacks as a rookie, but might not have a spot in the Ravens defense. Rumor has it that the Ravens are looking for a tight end, too.
Shea McClellin: The Patriots have listed McClellin as an edge defender, which is interesting, and he makes a lot of sense. He has plenty of experience on the edge and if Dont’a Hightower and David Harris are the starting linebackers, then McClellin would have to move over to get on the field.
Kyle Van Noy: Van Noy is a former college pass rusher and he’s always had a ton of success when lined up at the line of scrimmage. If Van Noy falls down the linebacker depth chart, he would be worth a look on the edge in the Patriots 5-man front.
Harvey Langi: Langi isn’t a veteran, but he’s also a player already on the roster that’s worth considering.
Ultimately, the Patriots might take the temporary injuries to Wise and Rivers as an opportunity to let players like Langi or Ealy or Grissom receive more reps with the starting defense. But if the Patriots want to add a new face to the roster, there are definitely options worth considering.
Update: With Rivers possibly out for the year, the team undeniably needs another pass rusher.