New England Patriots Free Agency: Should Bill Belichick Pursue Jason Taylor?

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IJune 28, 2011

MIAMI - JANUARY 03:  Linebacker Jason Taylor #99 of the Miami Dolphins looks up as the last few moments of the game tick away against the Pittsburgh Steelers calls out a play at the line of scrimmage at Land Shark Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Miami, Florida. The Steelers defeated the Dolphins 30-24.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Bill Belichick knows the New England Patriots pass rush must improve in the 2011 NFL season if they are to make another run for the Super Bowl.

Heck, he knew it had to improve last year, too. According to Rex Ryan in his book "Play Like You Mean It," Belichick aggressively pursued the services of Jason Taylor as a free agent last year.

We all knew Belichick was interested, but would anyone really have guessed he was obsessed?

As a free agent once again, the Patriots have another opportunity to go after Jason Taylor.

We saw a little of what Jason Taylor can do in a 3-4 defense last year, though Taylor was used primarily by Sexy Rexy as a pass rush specialist, playing with his hand in the dirt and going after the quarterback or setting the edge against the run.

Bill Belichick asks his linebackers to be able to do similar things, but they must also be able to drop into coverage and have the mental aptitude to grasp his complex system.

His ability to get after the quarterback needs no mention. His 132.5 career sacks are a testament to that.

For Belichick to aggressively pursue in that manner, they must feel Taylor can really contribute in the system. Belichick has never been known to pursue the big name free agents, and Jason Taylor certainly isn't the top talent he once was.

Last year wasn't a strong year for him, either. He played every game, but only started five, and logged 36 tackles, five sacks, 17 pressures and a safety in 2010.

That's certainly the type of player the Patriots could use: a rotational pass rusher who could make an impact on passing downs in the sub package, while also setting the edge against the run.

If Belichick was making such a strong play for him last year, it seems only logical to believe he will do so again this year. He didn't do anything last year with the Jets that would make Belichick suddenly shy away from him. If anything, he proved that he can be exactly what the Patriots need.

The key thing to remember, though, is that although the Patriots have a need, they drafted but one player at the position. Sixth-round pick Markell Carter shouldn't be expected to do anything more than contribute on special teams as a rookie (although fans will certainly hope for more).

The Patriots had a chance to go after a young pass rush specialist in the draft, why would they go after an aging one? Only if he could really contribute, or was way more promising than one of the four or five battling for a spot opposite Jermaine Cunningham.

Jason Taylor will be 37 by the time the 2011 season begins. How much more than one year would he give them?

Long story short, the Patriots would have to be making a conscious effort to make this the year they go after the Super Bowl if they were to pick him up. His playing time would come at the expense of the experience that a young player like Rob Ninkovich or Markell Carter could be getting.

The prevailing logic after the draft was that Belichick avoided outside linebackers because he was pretty confident in the current group. We'll find out exactly how confident he is when free agency opens up.

Erik Frenz is the co-host of the PatsPropaganda and Frenz podcast. Follow Erik on Twitter @ErikFrenz.