The New England Patriots had the youngest defense in the National Football League last season – but from the looks of things they’re about to age significantly.
Various media reports have three long-in-the-tooth veterans in for a cup of coffee and a handshake this morning, and it would not surprise anyone if coach Bill Belichick signed any or all of them…or none of them…
Former Arizona Cardinals strong safety Adrian Wilson headlines a group of savvy, presumably cap friendly veterans lined up for meeting with Belichick, with Atlanta Falcons defensive end John Abraham and Indianapolis Colts defensive end Dwight Freeny also scheduled.
Freeny may be the best known commodity to Patriots fans as his former team and the Patriots have met every year of his career and in his prime was known as the preeminent pass rusher in the NFL, while Abraham may be the least well known of the three, but if last year’s 10 sack performance is any indication, his pass rushing experience is much needed in Foxboro.
Wilson is the intriguing story. At 6′ 3″ 235 pounds, he projects as more of an in the box, run-stuffing safety that has loads of experience covering tight ends. He will be entering his 13th year in the NFL and was pulled from his duties as nickle safety at times last season with the Cardinals, but can still bring it underneath.
What Wilson would bring more than anything else is leadership and attitude to bring the secondary together into a cohesive unit. If the Patriots can indeed re-sign Aqib Talib, they will have a formidable lineup of Talib and Alfonzo Dennard at corners and a mix of Devein McCourty teamed with either Adrian Wilson or Tavon Wilson as the safeties, with Steve Gregory providing depth.
Interestingly, none of the visits or signings made by the Patriots are for positions deemed to be priorities by the experts with the exception of Buffalo Bills’ receiver Donald Jones visit yesterday and the signing of Danny Amendola on tuesday - however, Patriots fans are well aware of their teams’ need for pass rushers along the line, hence the Abraham and Freeny visits.
Jones is a #2 receiver at best and is undisciplined in his route running, but does have speed to stretch the field if he can overcome the discipline issue. Jones is best known to Patriots fans as taking that brutal de-cleating from Vince Wilfork in last season’s matchup in Buffalo.
There is still the issue of trying to resign cornerback Aqib Talib and right tackle Sabastian Vollmer, not to mention their picks from the upcoming draft, so bringing in aging vets with lower cap demands seems prudent – and no one gets more out of player on the downside of his career than Belichick.