While New England's offensive needs an overhaul, just a tweak or two could make its defense No. 1 in the NFL.
Bill O'Brien is in Foxboro to overhaul the offense. Maybe a top running back such as Saquon Barkley isn't far behind.
But what - if anything - needs addressing on the New England Patriots' defense this offseason?
The organization has already taken a step in the right direction, keeping Jerod Mayo as the team's expected defensive coordinator . The personnel is also mostly in place on a unit that played at a Super-Bowl level most of the season, highlighted by a league-leading seven touchdowns.
But what could further help a defense that featured Josh Uche (11.5 sacks) on one side, Matthew Judon (15.5) on the other and ball hawks such as Jonathan Jones and Kyle Dugger in the secondary? A pass-rusher that has been linked to New England for years:
According to Pro Football Focus , the Patriots are the best potential free agency destination for the veteran pass-rusher. Says PFF:
“The Patriots have earned a top-10 run-defense grade in three of the past four seasons, and Clowney can help them build on that strength. The former South Carolina product has earned a 91.0 run-defense grade for his career, which ranks fifth for his position since 2014. With Bill O’Brien also joining the Patriots coaching staff as offensive coordinator, Clowney would have the chance to reunite with the coach who helped draft him first overall eight years ago.”
During the 2022 season with the Cleveland Browns, Clowney ended up playing in just 12 games. His production was not great and a change of scenery would be ideal. Clowney ended up recording 28 total tackles to go along with two sacks, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and three defended passes.
In 2021, he put together a much better stat line. He ended the year with 37 tackles, nine sacks, two forced fumbles, and two defended passes.
Still only 29 years, Pats fans remember Clowney terrorizing Tom Brady in his days with the Houston Texans.
Clearly, Clowney still has some good football left in the tank. He simply needs to land in a position to be given the best chance to succeed. New England has always had a good ability to sign veteran players and get them back to playing at an elite level.
Clowney is entering what could be his last chance to land a meaningful contract. There will be quite a few teams with interest in adding more pass-rushing, but he must be careful with his choice. Simply looking at the track record of the Patriots when it comes to signing veterans should be enough to make New England one his top choices.
For the Patriots, bringing in Clowney would give them a lethal pass-rush on paper. If he can get back to playing at his usual elite level, the duo of Clowney and Judon would be among the best in the NFL.
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