The New England Patriots finally got their feet wet in this year’s NFL free agency with the signing of DE Adrian Clayborn and RB Jeremy Hill. The addition of Hill comes on the heels of Dion Lewis’ departure – in a move to help shore up the Patriots backfield.
The Clayborn signing will likely prove to be the more significant of the two as the season goes on. For a Patriots team that struggled getting any sort of pressure on Nick Foles during the super bowl, adding pass rushing during the offseason was critical. The Patriots had already acquired a behemoth of a man in Danny Shelton in a trade with the Browns, and in addition to Clayborn, will welcome back 3rd round selection Derek Rivers this year, who missed his entire rookie campaign with a torn ACL. This gives the Patriots depth a both the DT and DE position, something they struggled with in the latter parts of the 2017 season.
Clayborn brings a lot of experience to the DE position, and is coming off a 9.5 sack campaign for the Falcons…. Granted he had 6 sacks in one game against the Cowboys so those stats are a bit misleading. Regardless, the depth and ability to put pressure on the quarterback will be a massive benefit for the front 7.
Hill on the other hand has been a disappointment since his breakout rookie campaign. Ever since fumbling away a playoff game to the Steelers Hill’s career has slowly been on a downward spiral – averaging less than 4 yards per carry for 3 consecutive seasons. Having fallen to third string behind Joe Mixon and Giovani Bernard, it was time for a change. It’ll be interesting to see how the Patriots use Hill – as he doesn’t offer the speed and pass catching ability that Dion Lewis had. However, if he can reclaim a sliver of his rookie success where he ran for over 1,110 yards averaging over 5 yards per carry during that time, then Bill Belichick will certainly figure out how to get the most out of him.
While both nice signings, there’s still quite a bit of work to do. Piecing together a left tackle following Nate Solder’s departure is certainly at the top of that list. The Patriots have draft capital and are in the process of bringing in potential Solder replacements. With draft capital and Bill Belichick still in charge of personnel, it’s never time to panic. In Bill we trust.