Chris Long has some ideas for how the New England Patriots can improve their pass rush.
During an appearance on “The Mina Kimes Show Featuring Lenny,” Long, who won a Super Bowl as a Patriots defensive end in 2016, listed two edge rushers New England should consider targeting in free agency: Bud Dupree of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carl Lawson of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Dupree, 28, has tallied 19 1/2 sacks, 32 quarterback hits and 24 tackles for loss over the last two seasons. He’s coming off a torn ACL that ended his impressive 2020 campaign in early December.
“I donât know if (the Patriots would) ever spend the money on him, (but) I love Bud Dupree,” Long said. “… I think a Bud Dupree is, when you look at a guy who can do multiple things — you look at Pittsburgh. He was such an engine for them. Thereâs not one thing that he does in the top five in the league, but he does so many things in the top 10, 15. And thatâs what makes guys money and makes guys valuable in New England. …
“Heâs not necessarily going to be the guy who wins a bunch of 1-on-1s â¦ (but) Bud Dupree is going to do all your dirty work. Heâs going to push the pocket. Heâs going to go sideline to sideline. Heâs going to be a tone-setter. Heâs going to win some rushes, but thatâs a total unknown. Whatâs his numbers going to look like without a T.J. Watt opposite him, in a different scheme?”
Lawson, set to hit free agency for the first time at age 25, recorded a modest 5 1/2 sacks for Cincinnati this season but ranked second in the NFL in QB hits (32) behind Watt and sixth in total pressures (64), per Pro Football Focus.
“If you look at the year he had — and I know heâs had some ups and downs — he is so underrated,” Long told Kimes. “The guy had, like, 30-something hits, like 60-something pressures. He is an absolute pocket-pushing, a-bunch-of-tools-in-the-toolbox kind of rusher that I think would do really well in New England. But I also think that might cost them, and they might say, ‘Well, maybe youâre not versatile enough for us to pay you $10 million.'”
Dupree is listed at 6-foot-4, 269 pounds. Lawson is 6-2, 265.
As Long noted, the Patriots rarely spend big on pass rushers, preferring to fill out that group with more affordable additions like Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Adrian Clayborn, Jabaal Sheard and himself.
After losing Van Noy and Collins in free agency and Dont’a Hightower to a COVID-19 opt-out, the Patriots ranked 27th in sacks and 25th in sack rate in 2020. Outside of the versatile Hightower, who is expected to return this offseason, every New England outside linebacker currently under contract for 2021 (Chase Winovich, Josh Uche, Anfernee Jennings, Tashawn Bower, Rashod Berry) entered the NFL within the last two years.
“I do think they could use a little bit more investment in pass rush,” Long told Kimes. “That doesnât mean youâve got to go out and get Yannick Ngakoue. Go out and get your Swiss Army knife who can rush and push the pocket. I think (Dupree and Lawson) are two guys that you might look at.”