The New England Patriots’ list of unrestricted free agents is getting smaller. After the team already lost three starters since the legal tampering period opened on Monday — quarterback Tom Brady as well as linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins Sr. — it now has to bid farewell to another player that saw considerable snaps in 2019: defensive tackle Danny Shelton will reportedly sign a two-year, $8 million contract with the Detroit Lions.
Shelton originally entered the NFL as the 12th overall selection in the 2015 draft but failed to live up to his status during his first three years with the Cleveland Browns. The team therefore decided to trade him to New England, where he served as a rotational run-stuffer on the 2018 championship team. Shelton was re-signed by the Patriots the following offseason before delivering arguably the best campaign of his career in 2019.
The 26-year-old proved himself a stout and reliable defender up front throughout the 2019 season, and earned a role as a prominent member along the team’s interior defensive line together with fellow tackles Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler. And despite seeing a heavy workload in this role, Shelton played some solid football as a two-gapper capable of taking on double teams and holding his own in both the running and the passing game.
With Shelton headed off to Detroit, and New England using the second-round tender on Adam Butler, the Patriots’ currently have five interior defensive linemen under contract: Butler, Guy, Byron Cowart, Deatrich Wise Jr, and Nick Thurman. The top two spots of the position depth chart are solid, but the depth behind them is a bit of a question mark with Shelton no longer available.