The New England Patriots made a surprising (at least to me) move yesterday, as they released veteran defensive lineman Tommy Kelly. The team also cut ties with Will Smith, and linebacker James Anderson.
By releasing Kelly, the Patriots are telling me that they are comfortable with the depth they currently have, and more importantly, everybody will be healthy soon enough. Sealver Siliga, Chris Jones, and Dominique Easley are all dealing with an injury right now, but this roster move may indicate that they will all be ready to go in the coming weeks. Bill Belichick would not have let Kelly go if he felt like his depth in this area was weaker than it should be.
If Siliga, Jones, and Easley are in fact healthy (or close to it), the Pats defensive line is in good shape. Having a rotation of quality players is better than trotting out a 33-year-old veteran, who is just coming off ACL surgery. The combination of Joe Vellano, Siliga, Jones, and Easley will be deadly if all four are 100%. Of course, Vince Wilfork is still there, and he will anchor this group, but the rest of them will provide a lot of quality production throughout the year.
I want to point out Easley in particular, because he has the potential to make a serious impact on this team. Coming out of Florida, Easley’s best trait was his explosion off of the line. When his knees were healthy, there may not have been a better interior pass rusher in all of college football. If there is one thing that is missing from this talented Patriots defense, it is a pass rusher that can effectively maneuver from the inside. If Easley is healthy, and he can bring this style of play to New England every week, this defense will be even scarier than we initially though.
A few other notes on these three cuts:
- Releasing Kelly opens up an opportunity for Jerel Worthy to possibly sneak onto the roster. I think Joe Vellano has his spot sealed up at this point, but if Worthy can put together a good week, he may find himself on the final roster.
- Darius Fleming has played well this preseason, and I believe he will make this team, now that James Anderson has been cut. Fleming is a physical linebacker, which is different from Anderson‘s coverage game, but his play will still help this unit.
- I think a lot of us were wrong about Will Smith, as we were thinking he might have been one of the best free agent signings of 2014. I thought he would turn back the clock, and give the Pats a solid backup pass rusher to help out on third downs. But it was obvious throughout the preseason that he didn’t have enough left in the tank to jump over Zach Moore and Michael Buchanan, which is why he is now off the team. I wish him luck in finding another job in the NFL. He seems like a class athlete (the same can be said for all three guys that were just cut).