The New England Patriots should consider adding a pass-rushing veteran free agent like Clay Matthews to their roster this summer.
The New England Patriots are surely hoping they’ll get all the pass rush they need in 2020 out of guys like Chase Winovich, John Simon, and Deatrich Wise. They also have versatile defensive players like Dont’a Hightower, Lawrence Guy, and Adam Butler on the roster as well.
But while all six of these guys are certainly talented and respectable players, none of them is necessarily a proven commodity when it comes to rushing the passer and piling up sacks.
Butler and Guy are both primarily used more as defensive tackles than defensive ends, and each excels at clogging up the middle of the line and stopping opposing running backs. Hightower can do a little bit of everything, but he’s more accustomed to calling defensive signals from his linebacker role as the “mike” than sprinting all-out at enemy quarterbacks every play.
Wise is a true edge rusher with a high motor and degree of athleticism, but he can also get careless at times and draw dumb penalties. Because of that, Bill Belichick uses him more often situationally and he’s not considered a three-down player for this defense.
Of all these names, Winovich and Simon represent New England’s best bet this upcoming season at consistently dialing up pressure on opposing signal-callers. They were fifth and sixth, respectively, in sacks last season, with Winovich getting 5.5 and Simon getting 4.0.
All this being said, the Patriots don’t have a true sack artist on their roster anymore. Gone are the likes of Trey Flowers, Chandler Jones, Jamie Collins, and Kyle Van Noy, all of whom were capable of piling up at least five or six sacks per season — if not double-digits even (Flowers and Jones).
No one knows how to scheme up pressure on creative defensive play-calls like Belichick, but the Patriots should still consider adding a veteran talent on the cheap who can focus exclusively on rushing the passer.
This is what they’ve tried to do recently with guys like Michael Bennett or Adrian Clayborn. While neither of those players amounted to what Belichick and New England fans hoped they would be, you can understand what the thinking was behind signing both of them at the time.
The New England Patriots should bring Clay Matthews aboard this summer
This offseason, the Patriots should focus on signing Clay Matthews.
According to NBC Sports Boston’s Darren Hartwell, there was significant buzz earlier this spring that the Pats were trying to ink Matthews, a free agent, before the draft. Hartwell states that because Belichick drafted Michigan edge rusher Jose Uche, the interest in Matthews has all but evaporated now.
That may be true, but it shouldn’t be.
While Josh Uche and fellow Wolverine Chase Winovich could easily develop into a terrific pass-rushing pair in the future, both youngsters would benefit tremendously by learning from a pro’s pro like Matthews.
Although Matthews is 34 now and 11 seasons of pro football mileage on him, he’s still effective, too. Just last season with the Rams, he contributed eight sacks in only 13 appearances. Had he been on the 2019 Patriots with those numbers, he would have led the team in sacks.
In fact, Matthews has had at least five sacks in 10 of his 11 years in the NFL — and he’s had double-digit sacks in four separate seasons (2009, 2010, 2012, 2014). He’s also remarkably durable, as he’s played in at least 11 games every season he’s been in the league now.
There’s no reason the Patriots shouldn’t bring Clay Matthews in for at least an opportunity to show he’s still got some juice left. If he doesn’t, they could easily cut him before the season starts.
Particularly given the pandemic and all the uncertainty it’s causing for free agents who can’t meet with prospective teams (suitors) this summer, New England could probably sign Matthews for dirt-cheap and see what he offers them.