The New England Patriots have a solid starting defensive end duo of Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, and both players bring stout run defense to the table. Jones is expected to flourish in the third seasons of his career after being a quality pass rusher during his first two seasons, but more consistency is needed from the Syracuse product. Both Jones and Ninkovich have been workhorses on the field for the Patriots, so it’s high time the Pats find a more competent situational pass rusher to play behind them. They’ve tried their luck with developmental prospects in the draft like Michael Buchanan and Jake Bequette, and the 2014 season could be a make-or-break one for Bequette.
Right now, the Patriots are looking at veteran options who can get after the passer behind their starting ends, and they worked out former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith early this month. Smith was an easy cap casualty for the Saint and no longer fits their defensive scheme, and he also didn’t see the field last year. He’s returned to full health now, though, and he was once one of the most productive pass rushers in the league. His 13-sack 2009 season is well in the past, but he could be a real asset for the Patriots if he bounces back and plays at a solid level.
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports that the Patriots are still the favorites to sign Smith, and that makes sense given that they are the only team to have worked him out. Interest in Smith has been limited to this point, but I’m sure somebody else would want to bring him on a cheap, one-year deal. Once Smith lowers his asking price, I expect the Patriots to sign him to that kind of a deal. Florio indicates in the report that Smith’s knee isn’t fully healed yet, so that might be why the DE hasn’t signed.