Patriots bolster defense with versatile safety Adrian Phillips

The New England Patriots signed former Los Angeles Chargers safety Adrian Phillips to a two-year deal in NFL free agency.

Perhaps in an effort to somewhat mitigate the recent losses of Duron Harmon and Nate Ebner — and maybe even Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins as well — the New England Patriots reportedly decided to sign free agent safety and core special teams player Adrian Phillips, per Bleacher Report’s Megan Armstrong.

Phillips previously played the entirety of his career with the Chargers, down in San Diego from 2014-2016 and then in Los Angeles from 2017-2019.

As Armstrong notes, Phillips was cut an astonishingly high number of times while with the Bolts — eight times in total — during his first two seasons in the NFL before he finally started getting some real opportunities in 2016. He played in 14 games that season, in 15 games the following season, and in all 16 games during the 2018 season.

Phillips actually earned a Pro Bowl nomination and was named a First-team All-Pro that year for his contributions on special teams. He had 94 tackles, nine passes defensed, one interception, and one forced fumble, and he started in seven of those 16 regular season games.

The former Texas Longhorn was slotted to start again in 2019 after Derwin James started the season on IR, but Phillips ended up on IR himself after breaking his arm in the second game of the season. He returned to action and the active roster after Thanksgiving and managed to finish out the year with the Chargers.

From a Patriots perspective, Phillips offers major versatility and usefulness to Bill Belichick. Not only is he an excellent special teams player who could slot in alongside Matthew Slater and Justin Bethel to replace the departed Nate Ebner — he could also see significant snaps playing a variety of positions as a hybrid defender in Belichick’s scheme.

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The 27-year-old has played both free safety and strong safety during his career. He’s also played all three linebacker spots, and he has experience calling defensive plays and signals as well.

In short, he looks like a perfect addition to New England’s roster.