The New England Patriots have a significant need at defensive tackle this offseason, and a highly decorated one just hit the open market.
The Denver Broncos on Thursday announced they had released veteran Jurrell Casey.
The move saves the Broncos $11.9 million this season. Casey had two years remaining on his contract but no remaining guaranteed money, meaning Denver could cut him without any financial ramifications.
A torn biceps ended Casey’s 2020 campaign after just three games, but he was selected to the Pro Bowl in each of the previous five seasons and tallied five or more sacks each year from 2013 to 2019. The 31-year-old spent his first nine seasons with the Tennessee Titans, who traded him to Denver for a seventh-round draft pick last March.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick has raved about Casey in the past, calling him “one of the best defensive tackles in the league” before New England and Tennessee squared off in 2018.
“He’s very hard to block,” Belichick told Scott Zolak in a team-produced video segment. “He’s strong, he’s explosive and he’s very quick. … He’s a hard guy to handle.”
Casey was one of Pro Football Focus’s 20 highest-graded interior defenders in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. He ranked 29th in 2019, his most recent full season.
Casey’s days as a perennial Pro Bowler might be behind him, but he’d provide an upgrade to one of the Patriots’ shakiest position groups. New England’s D-line lacked quality depth last season after losing top free agent Beau Allen to what proved to be a season-ending injury in training camp, and veterans Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and Deatrich Wise are impending free agents.
Forced to grab players off practice squads to fill out their defensive front, the Patriots allowed the seventh-most rushing yards per game in the NFL in 2020 and ranked dead last in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA.
The only Patriots D-linemen currently under contract for the 2021 season are Allen, Byron Cowart, Akeem Spence, Nick Thurman, Bill Murray and Michael Barnett.
Since he was released, Casey is free to sign with a new team at any point. Free agents must wait until the new league year opens March 17 to join new clubs.
D-tackle Kawann Short is another former Pro Bowler who’s now available after being cut by the Carolina Panthers last week.