Earlier in the offseason, the Patriots' pass rush weaknesses were brought to the national stage with their pursuit of Panthers star Julius Peppers.
On Thursday, the Pats plugged some of those holes. And they didn't need to spend $16.7 million to do it.
New England made a trade with the Oakland Raiders for defensive end Derrick Burgess, adding a player who, as evidenced by his 16 sacks in 2005 and 11 sacks in 2006, provides an instant improvement to a beleaguered pass rush that saw its leader (Mike Vrabel, four sacks) leave for Kansas City.
Here's a breakdown of the acquisition:
Burgess is a legitimate player, and at 30, he should have stuff left in the tank. The defensive line, with Richard Seymour, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork, was already stout, but Burgess provides it with an extra dimension. It also allows the linebackers to help more in pass coverage, an area where the Patriots were burned last year, because they won't have to contribute a man to the rush as often. If Burgess is helping to disrupt the passer, the linebackers' pass coverage won't be compromised.
This could be Deltha O'Neal all over again. Burgess is a two-time Pro Bowler, one who also had eight sacks in a season in which he didn't make the Pro Bowl, but he missed games last year, and saw his numbers decline sharply. Also, the fact that he was essentially given away by the Raiders raises questions. O'Neal was the same way last year; a former Pro Bowl cornerback who was picked up off the Bengals' scrapheap to rediscover his form and shore up the secondary. It never worked, and O'Neal turned in one of the more miserable seasons by a Patriot defensive back in the Belichick era. Will Burgess have similar problems?
This appears to be a good move for the Patriots. While the O'Neal signing was a desperation move to fix an urgent need, Burgess appears to be a player that the Patriots like. They didn't sign him, but traded for him, meaning they were willing to make an effort to get him, and therefore must see something in him that was worth the cost. The Patriots have earned praise for consistently getting players that fit Belichick's scheme, and this appears to be another instance.