They will sign free-agent defensive linemen Jonathan Fanene to a three-year deal, according to Aaron Wilson of Fox Sports.
Jonathan Fanene to Patriots on three-year deal, according to a league source— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) March 14, 2012
Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald adds that the deal includes a $3.85 million signing bonus.
The move comes shortly after the team extended an exclusive rights free-agent tender to defensive tackle Kyle Love. With the signing, the Patriots will have addressed a position of need for 2012 from both inside and outside the organization.
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Fanene is listed as a defensive end, but did most of his work from the interior of the defensive line. He can rush the passer effectively from the inside, having logged six sacks in 2009 and 6.5 sacks in 2011, losing almost a full year to injury in between.
At 6'4" and 291 pounds, he has almost ideal size for an interior defensive lineman in the Patriots' two-gap defensive scheme. That being said, he was never more than a part-time player in Cincinnati, but he has shown some potential to make the under-the-radar signing have a solid payoff.
And if it doesn't, at least the Patriots only forked over $3.85 million for him.
As for the Patriots' outlook in free agency, while this may not be the big splash some were looking for, depth is an important issue for any team. Injuries add up, as we've seen for the Patriots on the defensive line in years past. We've seen the Jets struggle with depth issues, while the Patriots have classically been well-prepared for the long haul.
The free-agency period was expected to bring some clarity to what the future holds for the Patriots in the front seven—will they continue to run a 4-3 or go back to the 3-4?
This signing, however, brings us no closer to that answer. Fanene is a scheme versatile lineman, which is just as well, since the Patriots run a scheme versatile defense.
With the external signing, the eyes of Patriots Nation now shift to the status of Mark Anderson and Andre Carter, two solid acquisitions on the defensive line during the 2011 offseason. The two combined for 20 sacks and became the first duo of 10-sack Patriots defensemen since Andre Tippett and Garin Veris back in 1985.
Their future with the team could go a long way in determining the future of the front seven.