It’s assumed the New England Patriots will fill the void left by Rob Ninkovich’s retirement from within.
The Patriots have Kony Ealy and rookies Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise at defensive end and Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin and Harvey Langi, among others, as versatile linebackers who can rush the passer, set the edge and drop back in coverage as Ninkovich did before hanging up his cleats.
But in the event the Patriots need another pass rusher from outside the organization, there are some big names available on the open market.
Freeney wouldn’t contribute much at this point as a run defender, and he can’t drop back in coverage like Ninkovich, but if the Patriots feel they need another pure pass rusher, they could do worse than signing this 37-year-old free agent, who had three sacks last season and added another one in Super Bowl LI against the Patriots.
Freeney actually was the Falcons’ most productive pass rusher on a per snap basis last season, despite his age, according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics. He had 46 total pressures on 332 snaps in 2016.
Williams, at 32 years old, is considerably younger than Freeney but didn’t appear to have as much left in the tank last season with the Miami Dolphins. There are question marks about his effort, but Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has been known to squeeze some more juice out of older veteran players.
Williams had 22 total pressures on 233 snaps in 2016.
Cole is another older veteran edge rusher who could play on third down in obvious passing situations for the Patriots’ defense if they feel they need another pass rusher. Cole, 34, had 17 total pressures on 136 snaps with the Indianapolis Colts last season.
Odrick is more of an interior defensive lineman, but he’s been known to produce some pressure from defensive end and defensive tackle. He’s only 29 years old, and the Patriots showed interest in him this offseason with a visit to Gillette Stadium. Odrick only played six games last season, and it’s possible any chances of him coming to New England went out the window when they signed a similar player in Lawrence Guy.
Kruger is 31 years old and stayed healthy last season, playing in 15 games and starting 13, but he had just 1.5 sacks, 25 tackles and one forced fumble.
He recorded just 27 total pressures on 309 pass rush snaps with the Saints in 2016.
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