Today the Patriots signed former Oakland Raider defensive tackle Tommy Kelly to a two year deal. I personally love this move. One of the big needs for the Patriots in my opinion had been defensive tackle, and now they have added a guy that I believe can produce for them next season.
Obviously there were a lot of things missing from the Patriots defense last year, but I think having a guy next to Wilfork inside that can rush the passer was maybe the biggest missing piece. As Patriots fans know all too well getting pressure on a quarterback makes your defense a lot better and makes your secondary look very good. (By the way the reason Pats fans should know this is because of those two Giants Super Bowl losses). Anyway, the Patriots are actually pretty solid on the edge in terms of pass rush, as Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich both showed last year that they can pressure the quarterback. However there is not a threat on the inside other than big Vince. Kyle Love is a very good run stopper, but he provides literally no pass rush at all. The Pats have also brought in Armond Armstead from the CFL and he may be able to cover this role but he has yet to prove himself on the NFL level. Tommy Kelly however, has proved it on the NFL level. He had a sub par year in 2012 but from 2010-11 he recorded 14.5 sacks. That is pretty good for a defensive lineman. Kelly is a very talented player and I think New England would be the perfect fit for him, as he would get a lot of one on one matchups because he is playing alongside of Wilfork. He is a force on the inside and between him, Wilfork, Jones, and Ninkovich I think the Patriots front four will be very explosive in 2013.
Kelly is also a very versatile player. He has to capability of playing on the inside at tackle as well as on the edge. Now as I mentioned before the Patriots are pretty stocked on edge rushers but having the option to put Kelly out there can really create some favorable matchups for the Pats. Something that will probably be looked over in the next couple of days of analyzing this move is the fact that it further allows the Pats to be “free” and “creative” on draft day. Going into draft day with big needs is always a bad thing and more often than not, that is where over drafting occurs. This move fills the hole of defensive tackle for New England and other than receiver I honestly don’t see any huge needs for the Pats. They can now possibly go with the “best player available” option on draft day, and it is always fun to see who they end up with when going with that strategy. They obviously also get a better player than if they had reached and drafted someone that they needed, but wasn’t worth drafting at that particular spot.
With all the moves the Patriots have made on the defensive side of the ball, I really am excited for this unit in 2013. They bolstered their secondary by adding safety Adrian Wilson, and they now have bolstered their pass rush with Tommy Kelly. If Kelly can consistently push the pocket along with Wilfork, Jones, and Ninkovich, and the secondary continues to improve like they should, I really have the feeling that the Patriots could boast a top 10 defense in the NFL next season.