NFL Free Agency: Ray Edwards Would Bolster New England Patriots' Pass Rush

Tony SantorsaSenior Writer IIJuly 11, 2011

CLEVELAND - SEPTEMBER 13:  Ray Edwards #91 of the Minnesota Vikings hits Brady Quinn #10 of the Cleveland Browns at Cleveland Browns Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

There is zero doubt that New England's biggest defensive weakness is their pass rush—it's pedestrian. 

Last season, the Patriots somehow managed to rank 14th in the pass department, however they only recorded 36 sacks. New England's top pass rusher was Mike Wright, who brought down the quarterback 5.5 times while only playing in 10 games for the Patriots. 

Wright, who isn't considered a pass rusher, should not be leading any team in sacks—the Patriots need a major upgrade in free agency, as they failed to do so in this year's draft.

One of the most intriguing players that Bill Belichick and the Patriots may pursue is Minnesota Vikings outside line backer/defensive end Ray Edwards.

The 26-year-old played in 14 games for the Vikings last season as he racked up an impressive eight sacks. However, he only accumulated 37 tackles, which should be a minor concern. 

Edwards, who has spent his entire career in Minnesota's 4-3 defense, could potentially line up as one of New England's outside linebackers in their 3-4 alignment as he is 6'5" and 265 lbs. 

When you put New England's below-average pass rush in perspective, it's actually awful: New England's defense recorded a sack on only 3.7 percent of the opposing team's pass attempts, which is tied for 27th in the NFL.

New England's pass rush needs an upgrade.

As of right now, the Patriots will enter 2011 with Jermaine Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich, Tully Banta-Cain and Eric Moore as their top outside linebackers that will be expected to play in a significant amount of snaps.

Cunningham, who will be entering his second year out of Florida, has shown some promise in developing into a quality pass rushing defense and appears to be New England's only legitimate pass rusher as Ninkovich, Banta-Cain and Moore only accumulated 11 sacks combined.

If they added Edwards via free agency, he'd likely line up opposite of Cunningham to create a young and promising pass rushing duo.

However, Edwards will be a highly targeted player as he's about to enter the prime years of his career and is expected to receive quite the payday. The Vikings are not expected to match any offers, according to ESPN 1500

If Edwards can be signed at the right price, it's almost guaranteed that Belichick will reel him in as he'll fit perfectly in New England's inefficient pass rush. 

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