Last week, readers of Musket Fire voted on the position the Patriots should focus on most once free agency begins. The outside linebacker position won with 45% of the vote. Therefore, I’ll look at the top five outside linebacker prospects the Patriots could target. Today’s spotlight is on former New York Giants DE/OLB Mathias Kiwanuka.
Continuing the search for an outside pass rusher, our next path takes us to Mathias Kiwanuka, who has played for the New York Giants and is a product of Boston College. Kiwanuka, like Jason Babin and Ray Edwards who I already have spotlighted, would have to make a transition from defensive end to outside linebacker. In the Patriots’ favor is the fact that the Giants have experimented with him standing up, so he wouldn’t be going into the position completely green. Also, like Edwards, Kiwanuka has the prototypical size Bill Belichick loves in his outside linebackers at 6-5, 265. He may even be a little beefier now after reports have him showing up at a Giants’ players workout looking like he did some bulking up this offseason.
Mathias Kiwanuka does not come without some question marks.
The biggest question mark for the Patriots surrounding Kiwanuka would not be projecting him to play OLB, but how his neck has healed up after a herniated disk limited him to just three games. He has been given a clean bill of health to play again, but durability has been a concern. He has appeared in 16 games three times in his five-year career. One thing that is not a question mark is his ability to rush the passer.
Despite playing in only three games last season, he notched four sacks, which WEEI.com’s Christopher Price points out would have been good enough to tied for third on the Pats (kinda sad when you think about it, no?). In 2008 when he started all 16 games, he sacked the QB 8 times. Kiwanuka is a definite pressure-getter, and a look at his career numbers (shown below) show you a guy that’s not a stranger to big plays. Even with the neck injury, Kiwanuka lands on Pete Prisco’s Top 50 free agents list at #39.
Mathias Kiwanuka was expected to be a restricted free agent, which would have put him out of the Patriots’ price range. However, under the anticipated new CBA which uses the old rules of anybody with four years is an unrestricted free agent, his price tag comes down because the Pats will not have to give the Giants any compensation. Also bringing his price tag down is the aforementioned neck injury and the risk it brings any team that signs him. This Patriots-Kiwanuka pairing has a more likely chance of happening than Jason Babin and Ray Edwards.
Mathias Kiwanuka by the numbers:
- 2010 Stats: 11 tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble (in 3 games)
- Career Stats: 222 tackles, 23.5 sacks, 1 safety, 8 passes defensed, 2 interceptions, 7 forced fumbles
- Seasons with 16 starts: 1 (2008)
Previous Free Agent Spotlights: