What became obvious during the New England Patriots' 41-33 loss in Super Bowl LII was that the AFC champions must find a way to improve their front seven. The Patriots need to add more talent and athleticism to the front of their defense to consistently compete against deep offensive units that have the personnel to attack New England's rotational players in the passing or running game – just like the Philadelphia Eagles did two weeks ago.
One of the ways to add players like that to the roster is via free agency, which will start in exactly one month on March 14. The linebackers potentially available include a few notable names but nothing particularly outstanding – which also goes for high-profile veteran Derrick Johnson, who is set to become a free agent next month after the Kansas City Chiefs announced yesterday that his contract will void.
Despite being 35 years old, there is little doubt that Johnson can still compete in the NFL. After all, he is coming off a year during which he appeared in 16 of his team's 17 games and registered a combined 79 tackles to go along with a sack, a quarterback hit, a forced fumble and recovery as well as seven pass deflections – all while playing roughly three-fourths of Kansas City's defensive snaps.
Despite all this and the experience he brings to the table, however, the Patriots should not be interested in bringing Johnson on board: He simply is not the player the team needs on its defense right now. For all his past production, the 13-year veteran would add nothing really new to the defense and basically serve as David Harris 2.0 – a seasoned veteran that lacks the mobility to play in space or consistently be trusted in one-on-one coverage.
And while his production as a pass defender received good grades by analytics website Pro Football Focus last season, New England should look elsewhere for help in the department: the draft. Multiple athletically intriguing linebackers will be up for selection in late April and the Patriots would be smart to target one of them; be it a likely first rounder like Alabama's Rashaan Evans or a rawer prospect like Brigham Young's Fred Warner on day two.
Both project to fit well into New England's defense while offering a skill set that better aligns with what the Patriots have lacked in 2017 than Derrick Johnson's. As a result, the Patriots should pass when it comes to going after him next month and instead think long-term by pursuing younger players roughly two months later.