Armond Armstead’s Retirement Won’t Affect Patriots’ Defensive Plans

armond-armsteadThe Armond Armstead saga isn’t so funny anymore.

The young defensive tackle never made it onto an NFL field after being signed by the New England Patriots out of the CFL last February, announcing his retirement on Wednesday. Armstead was affectionately referred to as “The Sasquatch” by Patriots fans and media when he would disappear for stretches at a time during the 2013 season, rarely being seen in the locker room for more than a few moments and never permitting an interview.

Hopes were high for Armstead when he was signed last offseason, but his NFL debut was put on hold when the Patriots sent out a cryptic email late last July stating that the USC product had surgery to treat an infection and would begin the season on the non-football illness list. Armstead never made it off that list, and the Patriots never specified why he was placed on it in the first place.

Armstead was briefly seen again this offseason when he made an appearance at the Patriots’ first organized team activity. When he disappeared again for the remainder of OTAs and minicamp, the writing was on the wall that Armstead’s career was about to be over before it ever began.

The Patriots were depending on Armstead last season, despite the young defender’s history of health issues in college. Armstead suffered a heart attack during his time with the Trojans. The Patriots never fully recovered from Armstead’s absence last season, and losing Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly by Week 5 further highlighted the team’s lack of depth at defensive tackle.

The Patriots weren’t going to make the same mistake in 2014, and while it’s sad that Armstead’s career is over at the young age of 23, the Patriots were prepared for this long before his announcement.

Wilfork and Kelly already were full participants in Patriots minicamp practice, first-round draft pick Dominique Easley made his first appearance at practice on the last day of minicamp, and young players Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga could see a leap in ability during their second year with the Patriots.

There still is plenty uncertainty for the Patriots at defensive tackle, given Wilfork, Kelly and Easley’s history of health issues, but second-year pro Joe Vellano provides valuable depth at the position. Vellano wasn’t perfect in 2013 as a rookie, but he, like Jones and Siliga, could see a second-year jump at the position.

Armstead was supposed to be the disruptive presence the Patriots needed in the middle of the field on third down, signed to rush the quarterback from three-technique defensive tackle. The Patriots drafted Easley to man that role, knowing that anything they were able to get out of Armstead would be a bonus.

Signing Armstead last year was a great idea in theory, but sometimes even Bill Belichick’s risks don’t pan out.