Today it was officially announced that the Buffalo Bills were releasing DE Aaron Schobel. Schobel waffled on whether to retire or not, but now that his release is official, has indicated that he will play at least one more season. Cue in every pass-rush needy team in the NFL. Cue in the New England Patriots. The Pats have had trouble trying to find the answer to their pass-rushing woes, with their brightest hope being an unproven but promising rookie in Jermain Cunningham. They re-signed DE/OLB Derrick Burgess during the offseason, but he hasn’t reported to camp and is contemplating retirement. In his press conference this morning, Bill Belichick had no news on the Burgess front. They recently brought in Adewale Ogunleye for a workout but there hasn’t been any movement there. Having a proven pass rusher like Schobel sort of “fall” into their laps is almost too good to be true.
Belichick wouldn’t bite when asked about Schobel during his morning press conference, in typical Belichick fashion. “Right now I’m really just focused on our team,” he said. “I couldn’t comment on anybody with anybody else. He is still under contract with Buffalo, so there really isn’t anything… I mean, obviously he is a good player and he’s given us great competition on the field.” Great competition on the field indeed. He has sacked Tom Brady 12 times, more than any other single player. One seeming hurdle to overcome would be the fact that the Pats play the 3-4 while Schobel has played 4-3 his entire career. While most would expect Schobel to have to make a transition to outside linebacker to play with the Pats, not so says ESPNBoston.com reporter Mike Reiss. He made a strong case for the Pats to pursue Schobel.
“The Patriots wouldn’t be counting on Schobel to play outside linebacker in their 3-4 alignment. That would be unrealistic when considering that Schobel has been a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme his entire career,” said Reiss. “But given the way the Patriots vary their defensive plan from week to week, and have multiple packages within their scheme, it’s easy to imagine a significant role for Schobel in which he could be unleashed to do what he does best: Get after the quarterback as an end-of-the-line defender.”
The Pats will likely have competition for Schobel’s services, and may not stand a chance if the Houston Texans get in the race. Schobel lives in Houston and has talked about spending more time with his family, which hurts the Pats’ chances. Despite a healthy roster of 4-3 rush ends, Texans coach Gary Kubiak wasn’t backing off the possibility of adding Schobel. “I’ve followed him for a lot of years,” Kubiak said earlier today. “I think it’s about right now evaluating him just like you do every player that gets released and then taking a look at your team and where you’re at.”
I was on the look-out for a possible training camp trade that Bill Belichick has been famous for in regards to pass-rush help. However, the release of Aaron Schobel provides the team with a unique opportunity that will not cost the team a draft pick. Let’s hope the Pats make the most of this opportunity and go get Aaron Schobel!