Two weeks ago, 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 looked at the top five outside linebacker prospects the Patriots could target, and today marks the final day of the series. Today’s spotlight is on former Cleveland Browns OLB Matt Roth.
With his experience in not only a 3-4 defense, but a Patriots-style 3-4, OLB Matt Roth has been a player most often linked to the Patriots this offseason. He started his career playing for the Miami Dolphins under Head Coach Nick Saban, a Belichick disciple. From there, he went on to play for the Cleveland Browns under Eric Mangini, another former Belichick assistant. While he hasn’t exactly been a big-time pass rusher (3.5 sacks last season), he’s big (6-4, 275), tough, and can set the edge effectively.
Matt Roth-to-New England talk began back in May when I (I probably wasn’t the first but I’ll take credit) began looking at free agent possibilities for the Pats, likening his impact to that of Roman Phifer- very solid but unspectacular. Five days later NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi chimed in with his own Roth-Patriots chatter, saying the following:
The Patriots are most effective on defense when they can set the edge with big outside backers who have the ability to rush the passer in a physical style. Roth has been a good addition for the Browns since he left Miami and has been able to accumulate 7.5 sacks in the last 22 games and over 100 tackles. Roth is not an ideal coverage outside backer, but his size, toughness and power would fit in perfectly with the Patriots.
Roth’s biggest “plus” in terms of coming to New England is the fact that he should be able to transition to the Patriots’ system with little difficulty, having played for Saban and Mangini. That’s a major factor considering teams haven’t been able to run any mini-camps or other offseason programs to assimilate free agents to their new homes. Last season was Roth’s most the most productive of his career, starting all 16 games and totaling 86 tackles, though he has his highest single-season sack total (5) in 2008 for the Dolphins.
One thing that is certain is that Roth will not be in Cleveland this upcoming season. The Browns are under new leadership and switching their defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3 under Dick Jauron, and Roth has made it clear that his preference is to play in a 3-4. That doesn’t exactly guarantee him a ticket to New England, as there is a strong possibility he could follow former Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, now serving that position in Dallas. While Roth would make a solid addition to the Patriots, I don’t foresee getting into a bidding war with Jerry Jones.
As with all players, Matt Roth doesn’t come without some question marks. Things did not end well in Miami, where he was viewed as a malcontent not happy with his contract, even skipping voluntary workouts (no workouts are really voluntary in the NFL). To try and get a better understanding of what happened in Miami, I asked Brian Miller from FanSided’s Miami Dolphins site, Phin Phanatic, his thoughts on Roth.
“He didnt really do much in Miami,” Miller said. (Roth) had a lot of upside but (it) didn’t materialize. He also really dictated his exit by not being a team player.”
If there’s one thing we know about Bill Belichick when he’s seeking out free agents, he’s looking for that “Patriots-type” player, and part of that package includes being strong in the locker room. If he cleaned up his act in Cleveland, he could be a serious target for the Patriots once free agency begins.
Matt Roth by the numbers:
- 2010 Stats: 86 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 passes defensed
- Career Stats: 271 total tackles, 20 sacks, 8 passes defensed, 6 forced fumbles
- Seasons with 16 Starts: 1 (2010)
Previous Free Agent Spotlights: