NFL Free Agency: Could the New England Patriots Be Pursuing Matt Roth?

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NFL Free Agency: Could the New England Patriots Be Pursuing Matt Roth?
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The pair of blockbuster acquisitions announced on Thursday involving Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth was a newsworthy day the likes of which New England Patriots media members rarely have the pleasure to cover.

There are still plenty of free agents to be had, though, and many of them could be a fit for the Patriots. One player who immediately comes to mind is Cleveland Browns outside linebacker Matt Roth.

There has been a great deal of speculation over the course of the first few sessions of training camp that the Patriots could be transitioning to a 4-3 alignment. That has been the primary look the Patriots have shown in training camp, and even former 3-4 stalwart defensive end Ty Warren has suggested that his release had more to do with a change in defensive philosophy than anything else.

Adding Roth to the mix in the front seven would provide the Patriots with yet another scheme-versatile player for Belichick to move around.

His size (6'2", 272 pounds) makes him a little big to play outside linebacker in the 3-4, but he would still be a solid fit in either the 4-3 or the 3-4.

It's his experience in both fronts that should pique Belichick's interest. He even played middle linebacker for a very brief and forgettable period at Iowa in his freshman year. It wasn't long before he switched to defensive end, where he really came into his own and tallied 30 sacks in three years, including 12 in 2003 and eight in his senior year.

His first few years in Miami were as a defensive end in a 4-3 front, where he didn't catch on as quickly as some might have hoped. When Tony Sparano implemented the 3-4, that meant a switch to outside linebacker.

He didn't catch on there, either, and it wasn't long (20 games after the switch) before he was traded to Cleveland to play outside linebacker in Eric Mangini's defense.

Moving back to a 4-3 would mean a return to his bread-and-butter from college, but who knows how quickly he'd catch on there. Of course, the notion of the Patriots running a 4-3 remains speculation up to this point. Regardless, he would play on the edge either way, standing up as a 3-4 outside linebacker or putting his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 defensive end.

The fact that he has experience doing both may be the tipping point that pushes Belichick to make the move. Roth's price tag would likely be fairly low, thus making it a low-risk/high-reward option. We all know Belichick loves low-risk and high-reward (see Haynesworth, Albert and Ochocinco, Chad).

Even if there is no switch to the 4-3, his experience alongside some of Belichick's best bosom buddies could have the Patriots looking his direction. WEEI.com's Christopher Price pointed this out in a great breakdown of Roth a couple of months ago:

Since college, Roth has played almost exclusively for former Bill Belichick lieutenants: as a collegian, he was with Kirk Ferentz at Iowa. In the pros, he’s also had stints with in Nick Saban (Miami) and Eric Mangini (Cleveland), which would likely mean an easy transition into the New England system.

If nothing else, Belichick could tap into those friendly resources for a great inside look at what kind of player and person Roth is.

The fact that he hasn't caught on in the NFL in his six-year career, however, could be cause for concern. Sacks aren't the lone determining factor of production on the edge, but he has tallied five sacks in a season only once in his career.

It appears, however, that the Patriots are a land of golden opportunity for players looking for a second chance. First Haynesworth, then Ochocinco, and Roth could be next on the list.

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

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