The Bill Belichick-led New England Patriots are still on the hunt for interior defensive-line help. The team has scheduled visits, workouts, and phone calls with numerous defensive-line free agents this offseason, but only two have signed thus far.
Amobi Okoye could soon join that list; according to league sources, the former first-round pick has drawn interest from New England.
In the Fold Already
The Patriots came to agreements with Jonathan Fanene and Trevor Scott in March.
Fanene projects to see the majority of his time at tackle, but he has the experience and versatility to move to end. This is a player with only 17 career starts and 13.5 career sacks through seven NFL seasons. Fanene is a valuable addition to the rotation, but he certainly doesn't absolve the need at the position.
Scott is purely an end/linebacker hybrid; he won't be seeing time in the middle of the defense at just 255 pounds. The former Raider has had similar production to Fanene, making 16 career starts and collecting 13.5 sacks in four NFL seasons. Scott could easily be your Mark Anderson replacement in the sub-rusher role.
Defensive Line Profile Emerging
Let's get back to Okoye, who has a visit lined up with the Bengals on Tuesday.
At 6'2'' and 292 pounds, the 24-year-old represents a sound fit for the Patriots' defensive scheme. As I discussed a couple weeks ago, the team is very much on the lookout for a certain type of player. There appears to be a profile emerging based off of the interest shown in specific free agents.
The Patriots have pursued, at some level, Red Bryant, Paul Soliali, Kendall Langford, Luis Castillo, Trevor Laws, and now Okoye.
If ever there was a hint about the direction the team is attempting to go in, this is it. It appears Belichick would like to add size, strength, and experience to his defensive front. If Okoye leaves Cincy without a contract, the Patriots may bring him in for their own workout.
At 16, he was the youngest player in the NCAA. Okoye graduated in just three and half years and became the youngest player to ever be selected in the first round when he was drafted in 2007.
Making his first start at the age of 19, Okoye became the youngest player to appear in an NFL game since 1967.
So he's got five years of pro experience, but he's only 24 years old, the age of most rookie prospects entering the league. On average, Okoye has made 12 starts a season, collecting 33 tackles and three sacks.
While the production may not yet be there, the talent and promise sure is. This would be a mightily interesting project to watch if the Patriots do indeed get serious about making it happen.
So what are your thoughts on the Patriots' recent activity? I'll meet you in the comments section, Bleacher Creatures.
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