The New England Patriots clearly aren’t looking to spend big money this offseason. If you take a look at their most notable moves — re-signing James White, Trent Brown and Ja’Whaun Bentley, and signing Ty Montgomery, Malcolm Butler and Terrance Mitchell — all of them are of the cost-effective variety.
While the roster can use an influx of marquee talent, there’s something to be said that the Patriots are focusing on improving their depth. When it comes to the defensive side of the ball, it became apparent during New England’s blowout loss to Buffalo in the playoffs that the unit needed more speed and versatility.
On Tuesday, the Patriots hosted a player for a free agent visit who fits that exact profile. The player, former Giants safety Jabrill Peppers, must have made a strong impression on Bill Belichick, because the head coach seemingly didn’t let the former first-round pick leave Foxborough without a deal.
By Tuesday afternoon, the two sides reached an agreement on a one-year deal, so let’s project what kind of role Peppers could have with the Patriots.
Projecting Jabrill Peppers’ role with the Patriots after signing
Having played in a version of the Patriots’ defensive scheme under Joe Judge the last two seasons, Peppers shouldn’t have trouble familiarizing himself with the playbook. That alone is a reason for fans to endorse the signing, but it’s Peppers’ skill set and versatility that make him a dream fit with New England.
After all, Peppers, assuming he’s fully recovered from the torn ACL that prematurely ended his 2021 season, would step in as the Pats’ top punt returner. That’s pretty significant given how effective Gunner Olszewski, who left in free agency, was in that role over the last three seasons.
On defense, expect Belichick to deploy Peppers all over the place. Whether it be as a box safety, cover corner, or a situational pass-rusher, the former first-round pick of the Browns in 2017 has experience in all of those roles.
Not many players in the NFL can say they’re one of the top-five athletes on either team whenever they step foot on the field. Peppers is one of them and Belichick and Co. need to make a concerted effort to get him in position to put it to use.
The Michigan product struggles in coverage as a safety, but he can hold his own in the slot against tight ends and smaller-sized receivers. With depth at the position in the form of Kyle Dugger, Devin McCourty, Adrian Phillips and Jalen Mills, the Patriots will more often than not have the luxury of deploying Peppers as a Swiss army knife.
It’s anyone’s guess what Belichick’s plans are for Peppers, but we like to think he’ll be rotated as a return specialist, box safety, slot corner and a situational pass rusher when he can use his speed to blitz past offensive linemen.
Whatever happens, this is a signing worth getting excited about because Belichick typically uses his more athletic/versatile players creatively, which greatly benefits the defense.