The New England Patriots have spent the beginning of their offseason playing the long game. They haven’t dished out big money or plucked any big names out of the pack, instead they’ve focused on getting the best value possible. Their latest signing is no different.
Coming off of an ACL injury that cost him 11 games in 2021, Peppers joins a deep safety rotation in New England that will likely see him play a spot role in their defense. Looking to regain some lost value, it’s easy to see how Peppers found his way to New England, but what does it mean for the Patriots?
New England has options on defense
You want versatile defensive backs? New England’s got ‘em! Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, and now Jabrill Peppers are all football players that defy positional designations. Dugger and Phillips have each played a hybrid safety/linebacker role over the past two seasons that has helped the Patriots get faster on defense and patch up a lot of coverage deficiencies that the team has had. Jones and Bryant on the other hand, are do-it-all defensive backs who have each made the jump from slot corner to safety in emergency situations. Jabrill Peppers, well he does all of those things and then some.
Over the past two seasons, Peppers has lined up at outside corner, slot corner, deep safety, in the box, and even as a defensive end. He quite literally does it all.
Jabrill Peppers' snap distribution over the last two seasons, per PFF:— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) March 29, 2022
Wide CB: 19
Wide CB: 44
His addition is sure to help a team that is still looking for help on the outside and at linebacker. Whether you use him at multiple positions or allow his presence to free up other players to take on more serious roles in other places, New England is certainly more versatile with him than they were without him.
Another option to replace the Gun Show
Gunner Olszewski’s departure for Pittsburgh this offseason is an overlooked, but fairly significant move that will have an impact on multiple players on New England’s roster moving forward. Olszewski served as New England’s primary kick and punt returner in 2021, taking up a roster spot but relieving the pressure of those duties from being put on another player. Now that he’s gone, there are a pair of spots to be filled on a special teams group that was anything but special in 2021.
Here’s are some of those options:
Kick Returners: Ty Montgomery, J.J. Taylor, Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson
Punt Returners: Jabrill Peppers, Jakobi Meyers, Kyle Dugger, N’Keal Harry
That’s a group of eight players, spanning from roster-bubble guys to bonafide starters. Peppers joins the mix of a player that has experience doing both but was at his best as a college punt returner. No matter what happens, having options to choose from can never be a bad thing.
The Joe Judge influence is real, but not as significant as you may think
As a former New York Giant who played under Judge in 2020 and 2021, many have already slapped Peppers with the tag of being a “Joe Judge Guy”. While that certainly could be true, everything about Peppers as a player screams Patriots. He was one of Jim Harbaugh’s first stars at Michigan, a school and coach that has pumped out future Patriots over the past seven years. He played both sides of the ball in college, and as we touched on earlier, is the ultimate chess piece as a pro defender.
With Joe Judge reportedly focusing his efforts on the offensive side of the ball this upcoming season, we can pump the brakes on the idea that he influenced this decision.
The Patriots will make their most significant offseason moves in the draft
While this could probably be said for any team in any year, this signing doesn’t change much about how we will view New England’s free agency moves. They’ve all been solid, some might even call them fun, but I don’t think we’ll see anyone argue that they were game changing.
March of 2022 will be viewed as a time in which New England focused on value. They wanted to get the most bang for their buck and that’s okay, as long as they hit in April.
How would you grade the Patriots signing Jabrill Peppers?
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