New England Patriots Release Brandon Spikes: Taking Stock of Linebacker Depth

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Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Darius Fleming

Drafted in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers, Fleming has had a tough go of it on the injury front. An ACL tear in rookie minicamp wiped out his first year, and then he tore the same ACL the following summer. The 49ers released him in the 2014 offseason, and then the Patriots swooped in and signed him.

After spending the first half of the season on the practice squad, Fleming was promoted to the active roster in November. He recorded six combined tackles en route to earning a Super Bowl ring.

Fleming is an extremely talented player. He was one of the top linebackers in the country when he declared for Notre Dame out of high school, and he was a highly anticipated addition to the 49ers defense when he entered the NFL a few years ago. However, those two devastating ACL tears have changed the course of his professional career.

More so than Watson and Freeny, Fleming resembles Spikes with his run-stopping capability and deficiencies in pass coverage. Expect to see Fleming used in non-passing situations as the Patriots try to carve out a role for him.

You can bet that Fleming is chomping at the bit for a full NFL season on an active roster.

Next: Dane Fletcher