The New England Patriots have been aggressive in acquiring players this offseason with a major focus on defense.
After about 2 weeks of free agency, it would seem that the most active team during this time was uncharacteristically the New England Patriots. As a lot of Patriots fans know, Bill Belichick isn’t typically giving out big contracts.
So far the Patriots have made 4 new signings including a number one corner, former Buffalo Bills, Stephon Gilmore. The patriots have also defensive linemen Kony Ealy, and Lawrence Guy. The Patriots have signed and running back Rex Burkhead on the offensive side of the ball.
The Patriots have also resigned safety Duron Harmon, defensive lineman Alan Branch, and linebacker Dont’a Hightower who is the leader on defense and a very important signing.
They have also acquired two players via trade. Tight end Dwayne Allen from the Indianapolis Colts and wide receiver Brandin Cooks from the New Orleans Saints. However, most of the Patriots’ focus has been on the defensive line.
The Patriots have already lost a couple of defensive pass rushers this offseason. Defensive end Chris Long announced that he will not be returning to the team this season. And Jabaal Sheard has already signed with the Colts.
The focus on defensive line comes after a season where the Patriots defense struggled on the pass rush amassing only 24 sacks. Is it coincidence that this comes one year after trading Chandler Jones who led the team in sacks last year? Probably not.
It is clear that the Patriots need to build a better pass rush based on last season’s statistics. Although, it is tough to say whether or not these signings will be big difference makers. Last season Kony Ealy had 5 sacks and 32 combined tackles. Lawrence guy had 1 sack and 28 combined tackles. These aren’t great numbers and the player to watch on that defensive line is Trey Flowers. Flowers had 7 sacks and 45 combined tackles while only starting for about half of the regular season.
The Patriots have gone out in seek of defensive lineman in order to build their pass rush. However, the key to their improving pass rush has been sitting at home the whole time.
About two weeks into free agency there is a possibility the Patriots will lose one of their key defensive players, cornerback Malcolm Butler. Butler went to visit the Saints on Thursday and the two are close to a deal that could give the Patriots a 1st round draft pick. The upcoming weeks may decide the future of this defense which is already looking stronger than it was last year, despite the players the Patriots lost.