How Can New England Patriots Bolster Defensive Line with Free Agents in 2012?

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IMarch 13, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - NOVEMBER 24:  Cory Redding #93 of the Baltimore Ravens celebrates a sack against the San Francisco 49ers at M&T Bank Stadium on November 24, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

When it comes to finding free-agent fits for the New England Patriots, versatility is the key, especially on defense.

Although the team has extended an exclusive rights free-agent tender to defensive tackle Kyle Love, they could stand to add more top-notch talent on the line. There are plenty of options available on the market that the Patriots could target.


Red Bryant, Defensive Tackle, Seattle Seahawks

SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 12:  Red Bryant #79 of the Seattle Seahawks protest a call by the officials during a game against the St. Louis Rams at CenturyLink Field December 12, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. Seattle won 33-13. (Photo by Jay Drowns/Getty Images
Jay Drowns/Getty Images

If there's been a hot name in the New England Patriots rumor mill leading up to the beginning of free agency, it's been Seahawks defensive tackle Red Bryant.

The excitement kicked off with Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald reporting that the team is at least interested in him. This seems like just the type of under-the-radar move the Patriots would make.

But can he be a fit? He's been primarily a 4-3 defensive tackle, and it might seem like the square-peg-in-a-round-hole mentality that had the Patriots trying to fit Albert Haynesworth into their defense.

On the contrary, says Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports' Shutdown Corner blog:

@RapSheet Very underrated guy. Can play heavy 5-tech end and slip inside. Belichick would have a ball with him on the line.

— SC_DougFarrar (@SC_DougFarrar) March 13, 2012

With his experience in a 4-3 and his ability to play the five-technique in the 3-4, he could be a fit in a Patriots defense that figures to run multiple fronts as they have every year, but especially over the past couple of years.

What's more, he's received rave reviews from Pete Prisco of CBS Sports, who does a scouting report on Bryant that seems to indicate he'd be a fit with the Patriots.

Most of the time, Bryant was able to hold the point and do his job. Again, it didn't always mean a tackle for him, but it's that type of stout play that enables teams to be good in the run game.

The Patriots have a chance to land a player that could be a fit at a relatively cheap price. At just 28 years old, the Patriots could go in for a three-year deal with Bryant and be confident in his ability to play out the life of the deal at a high level.

One issue with Bryant is that he hasn't been healthy for much of his career. He had knee surgery in July 2008, sprained his ankle in November 2008 and had another knee injury in November 2010. While that could mean he'll be a bit cheaper, it would also mean he could be a big risk.


Cory Redding, Defensive Tackle, Baltimore Ravens

It's rare for a 3-4 defensive linemen to be as productive as Redding, having logged 60 tackles and 7.5 sacks in the past two seasons combined.

Like Bryant, Redding has experience in both fronts. He would easily find a spot in both the base 3-4 and the sub package.

Redding is 31 years old and will be 32 in November, making him slightly more of a risk than Bryant. However, the mileage isn't as high as you might think for Redding. He's been a rotational player, having played less than 70 percent of defensive snaps in each of the past four years (according to Pro Football Focus). 

That being said, one concern about Redding is that he may not be worth the money he'll command, since he'll likely be a rotational player.

Belichick has been able to maximize the value of rotational players like Redding in the past, and bringing him in would allow the Patriots to be flexible in their fronts, but we all know how the Patriots operate, and if the dollar amount gets too far outside what they feel his true value is, they'll bow out early.


Make the Call

Who else should the Patriots go after? Leave a comment below and get the conversation started.