Stroud has traditionally been a defensive tackle in 4-3 defenses in Jacksonville and Buffalo, and that's likely where he'll fit in the Patriots' four-man fronts in sub packages. But he'll probably move down the line when the Patriots play in three-man fronts. In the 3-4, Stroud is better suited to play at end, but he could switch to tackle when Vince Wilfork shuffles to the outside.
Stroud, who turns 33 in June, hasn't been all that impressive during his last two seasons in Buffalo, and he won't be much more than a rotational player who can add depth in New England. Plus, while it's possible that Stroud's play dropped off late in seasons due to his age, it's also likely he lost interest in playing for a team that had no aspirations for the playoffs, and he should play with added motivation with the Super Bowl contenders in Foxboro. Plus, the Bills continued to shift between the 3-4 and 4-3 last season, and their identity crisis could have added to Stroud's potential discontent and poor play.
It was surprising to see the Patriots sign Stroud, mostly because defensive lineman Gerard Warren is still a free agent. (Since Stroud was cut by the Bills, he was free to sign with a new team before the impending lockout. Warren, meanwhile, can only negotiate with the Patriots until Thursday, when the collective-bargaining agreement expires.)
Warren surpassed expectations in 2010 during his only season with the Pats, and he played well in a variety of roles along the defensive line, particularly as a part-time tackle who helped Wilfork flourish at end. The signing of Stroud doesn't necessarily mean the end of the line for Warren, as Stroud could simply provide competition in training camp, much like Damione Lewis did in 2010.
Tuesday's signing also gives the Patriots flexibility in a draft that is loaded with talented defensive linemen. It could afford the Pats to take a risk with the 17th pick — maybe with an offensive lineman, running back or outside linebacker — and then hope to address a defensive lineman at Nos. 28 or 33. And if they don't get one of the players they want, at least they've got the added depth with Stroud.
This will be a curious move if the Patriots use Stroud as a substitution for Warren, but until the Patriots' (potential) corresponding moves go down, Stroud's signing deserves an incomplete grade.
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