Much of the focus around the NFL at this time of year is centered on the draft. The Scouting Combine recently came to a close, and everybody seems to be dialed in on all of the college prospects. But we can’t forget the guys already in the league, as free agency has the potential to be even more important than the draft.
Defensive end isn’t a pressing need for the Patriots. They have two quality edge guys in Chandler Jones, and Rob Ninkovich, who played extremely well in 2013. But if New England’s two recent Super Bowl losses taught us anything, it is that a good pass rush negates a good offense every single time. Sure, Jones and Ninkovich were solid, but were they dominant? Not even close. When Aqib Talib went down in the AFC Championship game, it wasn’t just the secondary that let New England down. The pass rush was nonexistent, and when you don’t get to Peyton Manning, you’re going to have a long day.
But the Pats can get by with an “okay” pass rush. What they can’t get away with, is having Jones and Ninkovich play 95% of the defensive snaps. It doesn’t matter how talented you are, if you have to stay out on the field for that long, you become much less effective. Having some depth behind these two will be essential for this defense in 2014, and I would rank this need up there with tight end, and defensive tackle.
Enter Lamarr Houston. He may not have the star power of a Greg Hardy, or a Michael Bennett, but this dude can ball. He totaled 16 sacks in his four year career, including a career high six last season. Houston is a big guy, standing at 6’3, and weighing in at 300 pounds, so he should also be able to hold up against the run, if needed.
The problem with Houston, is he may demand a lot of money. New England won’t be willing to cough up a lot of dough to throw at him, especially with Aqib Talib still unsigned. However if the two sides can come to a reasonable agreement, I would really like to see Houston in a Patriots uniform next year.