The Patriots were fairly sound with regards to their defensive line in the 2012 season. However, most of the unit's success was tailored towards the beginning of the season. Chandler Jones came flying out of the gates to start the year, and was an early favorite for the NFL's AP Defensive Rookie of the Year. DT Vince Wilfork showed the league that he is in the midst of the prime of his career by making the AP All-Pro First Team. Rob Ninkovich was just being Rob Ninkovich; huge plays in clutch moments.

Things did not end well though; Jones was never the same after his ankle injury and Wilfork was nearly non-existent in the AFC Championship game. Ninko was the only player who made a big impact in the last couple weeks of the season. Do the Patriots need to make a big free-agent splash to upgrade the D-Line? Absolutely not.... BUT maybe adding another credible veteran wouldn't hurt, particularly at the DT position; Wilfork needs to be able to come of the field at times to regain energy.

It is unlikely that the Patriots will sign some of the bigger names, as there is no need (or interest, I'm assuming) to invest big bucks into a position that they already have covered, but here is a list of some of the notable free agent Defensive Linemen (Courtesy of FootballsFuture.com):

1. Richard Seymour DT/DE
- Arguably one of the most versatile defensive linemen in the game. The former Patriot took his skill set to Oakland and has been one of the few bright spots on the team since then. The team that signs him will be getting the following; a) an established veteran All-Pro, b) very smart with regards to schemes c) leadership d) Super Bowl experience. It is expected that Seymour will be seeking solid money with a contending team, even if it is a short deal. Could the Patriots pursue him? Probably not, but it's nice to dream isn't it?

2. Osi Umenyiora DE
- Once part of the Giants highly touted D-line, Umenyiora never received the deal that he was looking for and is now testing the market. Unfortunately for him, at 31 years old and coming of a 6 sack season, he will most likely not gain to much interest for a big contract. Could the Patriots maybe show interest? If the price is right...

3. Dwight Freeney DE
- Probably the most talked about free agent DL with regards to the Patriots' interest. Brendan Annely wrote a great piece covering the former Colt's chance of landing in New England. The article will answer a lot of your question, check it out.

4. Desmond Bryant DT
- SB Nation put a lot of thinking into Bryant and the Patriots possibly coming to terms. They seem to believe that the veteran could be a great fit for the Patriots. However, they also said that although the Patriots may put some thought into this beforehand, ultimately they will only seriously pursue him if they are unable to find any DT talent in the draft.

Speaking of the draft, it is hard to overlook Ohio State junior DT, Johnathan Hankins. No, seriously it is physically hard to overlook this guy; he is 6'3", 335 lbs. I previously wrote a brief article about the DT and the possibility of the Patriots drafting him. Unfortunately, NFL.com projects him to be a top 12 pick, but crazier things have happened on draft day. Check out some of his college highlights, this guy would be a perfect protege for Wilfork.

: With today's signing of DL Jason Vega and the previous agreement with DL Armond Armstead, the Patriots have put plenty of faith in the CFL's player development. Will the Patriots continue to add to their D-line in case the CFL plan flunks? It wouldn't hurt. Especially since they could use another solid pass rusher. In the end though, the Patriots are arguably one of the league's toughest teams to predict in regards to player movement.

Anthony Aidonidis

Anthony Aidonidis 2/19/2013 04:26:00 PM Edit

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