The start of NFL free agency is just a few short days away. Here’s a position-by-position look at some defensive players the New England Patriots could target when the market opens for business Thursday afternoon:
DEFENSIVE END: DATONE JONES
The Patriots recently have been big fans of adding underperforming former first-round draft picks. Jones was selected 26th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft and started just seven games for the Packers in four years.
He’s the type of player who could fit the Patriots because of his versatility to play inside and out on the defensive line. The Patriots should be looking for a defender who can play left defensive end opposite Trey Flowers, who starts on the right side. Rob Ninkovich fills that role for now, but he’s getting up there in age.
Jones shouldn’t cost too much money and still has upside at 26 years old.
The Patriots could show interest in an aging edge rusher like DeMarcus Ware or Paul Kruger if the money is right.
DEFENSIVE TACKLE: JARED ODRICK
We’ve been on this one since Odrick was released by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He reportedly worked out for the Patriots and passed a physical.
That the Patriots haven’t signed him yet isn’t to say they won’t. Odrick has size, versatility and still is relatively young at 29 years old. There aren’t many players with Odrick’s size and upside that could come at a relatively low cost.
Other potential low-cost fits are Tyson Alualu and Tony McDaniel. The Patriots also should do everything they can to bring back Alan Branch.
LINEBACKER: PAUL WORRILOW
The Patriots reportedly are interested in signing Worrilow, who amassed just 21 tackles in 12 games and one start last season. He was a starter for the first three years of his career and would serve as solid depth on the Patriots.
The Patriots should re-sign Dont’a Hightower. If they can’t, they’ll likely address this need through the draft with Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts and Jonathan Freeny already on the roster.
CORNERBACK: D.J. HAYDEN
Hayden is another former first-round pick who the Patriots could hope has yet to play his best football. He’s highly athletic but injury prone and was solid in the slot last season.
If the Patriots lose Logan Ryan in free agency, they should look to build depth at the position to create some competition. Alterraun Verner is another possibility.
SAFETY: WILL HILL
The free-agent safety class isn’t great, and Hill once was a very good player before suspensions derailed his career. There finally are no suspensions looming over the former Ravens safety (for now), and it would be worth seeing if the big defensive back could turn around his career in New England.
Hill once was one of the best defenders in the NFL at covering tight ends.
If the Patriots can’t re-sign Duron Harmon, their best bet might be to draft his replacement, otherwise they’ll be overpaying a free agent or signing a player like Chris Conte.
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