The Philadelphia Eagles released defensive end Jason Babin yesterday in the second surprising release of a high-paid DE this season. The release came on the same day that New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick did not rule out the signing of a free agent in order to fill the void left by the suspended Jermaine Cunningham and currently injured Chandler Jones.
Babin and Ray Edwards are the two most talented defensive ends available, but they might not be the best options for New England. The Eagles released Babin due to some stupid things he said as well as a lack of production this season. Think about it. He was released by the freaking Eagles. That’s definitely not a vote of confidence and his high salary makes him a bad decision for the Pats on the waiver wire.
You see, the Pats should just be looking at a good, veteran rental signing for the remainder of the season. Even with Cunningham and Jones, the Patriots pass rush is still one of the biggest weaknesses on this team (one of the only weaknesses, really). They need to pick somebody up who is a safe bet to produce and someone who can receive significant snaps.
Matt Roth and Jonathan Fanene are two of the best available, but neither of them are fits for this team. I doubt the Pats bring back Fanene, and Roth is more of a 3-4 OLB edge rusher than a 4-3 DE. He’s an underrated player and might actually be a relatively safe bet to produce compared to the other players on the market.
Anthony Hargrove, Luis Castillo, Aaron Kampman, and Antwan Odom are all well past their primes, and I can’t envision the Pats taking a chance on them. In fact, Trevor Scott is clearly better than those four players.
Everette Brown and James Hall are two intriguing players on that list, but Brown is more of a project player at DE with Hall also being a veteran who is losing a step.
The options at defensive end are all underwhelming, and there is really only one player who has talent and could fit with the Patriots scheme. That player is Ray Edwards, and he was a huge disappointment for the Atlanta Falcons ever since signing a big deal with them after being one of the best ends in the NFL while with the Minnesota Vikings. The only way I can see the Pats picking up Edwards is if he is willing to sign a rental deal for the remainder of the year to prove himself when he hits the market again during the offseason.
The Patriots might be best off staying put with what they have, especially if Scott continues to play at a solid rate. If Jones comes back this week, then those rumors are going to be put on a hold. I could still see the Pats picking up a veteran with some upside down the stretch as a sub-package player, but I’m not sure if there is that kind of a player.
Aaron Maybin is more of a 3-4 OLB than a 4-3 DE, so he’s another potential signing ruled out by scheme. The Patriots are likely best off using the pieces that they have right now, because it doesn’t seem like there is anyone worth signing in the long run. Jones’s injury doesn’t seem to be serious since he hasn’t needed a walking boot, but his participation in practice will definitely paint a clearer picture for Pats fans.
Babin is a great DE in the Wide-9, and the Patriots definitely do not utilize their DE in nearly the same manner as the Eagles do (or the Tennessee Titans did). To me, Babin isn’t an option especially after some of the stuff he pulled this year in Philly. Edwards can play the run better than Babin anyway, and that run-stopping production is being lost with Cunningham and Jones out at the RE spot.
Edwards makes sense under certain financial conditions (mainly length of contract), but the other players available at defensive end make very little sense for the Pats. I like the pieces we have right now, and Jones and Cunningham aren’t going to be out for too long anyway. There’s no need to act like the Pats pass rush is in shambles, especially since Justin Francis has shown promise and Scott is a more than adequate pass rusher (he was a very good player a couple of seasons ago in Oakland).
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.