The New England Patriots offseason has paled in comparison to last year, when they shattered the record for most guaranteed money handed out in free agency. From Matt Judon, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, Kendrick Bourne, Kyle Van Noy and Nelson Agholor, among others, the Pats quite literally broke the bank in 2021.
This offseason has been a different story. Short on cap space partly due to last year’s spending spree, New England’s lone outside signings have come in the form of Ty Montgomery, Terrance Mitchell, Malcolm Butler and Jabrill Peppers.
The trade for DeVante Parker helped change the complexion of the offseason. The same can be said for the NFL Draft, where the Patriots bolstered their offensive line and receiving corps with Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton.
But let’s call it like it is. This offseason is nothing to brag about. It’s been more about outgoing options, bargain newcomers and re-signing players.
It’s unclear which of these acquisitions will make the biggest impact, but NFL Network’s Rich Eisen had unlikely praise for the Peppers signing, calling it one of his five most “under-the-radar” moves of the offseason.
Rich Eisen thinks Jabrill Peppers can be a steal for the Patriots.
Here’s what Eisen said on the latest episode of the “Rich Eisen Show”:
"I’m telling you, I’m biased, flat-out biased when it comes to this player, who was one of the most dynamite college players, did not do very well in Cleveland (Browns). Get it, understand. Didn’t do all that great, didn’t shine out in New York (Giants) but now he’s coming to New England, and I’m telling you, the Patriots will understand what to do with this guy.And he’s going to have, all of a sudden, the old fountain of youth, even though he’s still youthful. Jabrill Peppers is a New England Patriot, and I’m telling you, he’s gonna be terrific in this defense. They’re gonna figure out what to do. He’s gonna make plays. He’s gonna ‘do your job.’ He knows how to do it. Bill (Belichick) loves Michigan players, and that’s not just a (Tom) Brady reference."
As a Michigan alum, Eisen is definitely biased toward Peppers, but it’s easy to see why the former Wolverine ranked No. 5 on this list. Like Eisen said, if there’s any coach that will figure out how to maximize Peppers’ skillset, it’s Bill Belichick, who’s made a habit out of turning castaways, for lack of a better term, into key role players.
A safety by trade, Peppers has been more effective defending the run and rushing the quarterback than dropping back in coverage. With so much versatility in his game, Peppers could be used as a slot corner or even a box linebacker, akin to Jamaal Adams and Landon Collins, whose deficiencies in coverage are well-documented.
Unlike the Seahawks and formerly Washington in Collins’ case, the Patriots would be covered at safety with Devin McCourty re-signing and Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips back in the fold, giving Belichick the freedom to experiment with Peppers in a variety of roles.
Still just 26 years old and two years removed from a career year with the Giants when he registered 91 tackles (eight for loss), 2.5 sacks, 11 passes defended and a 76.3 pass-rush grade and 71.8 run defense grade from PFF, Peppers has the potential to be a real X-factor for the Patriots in 2022, like Eisen said.