While the NFL Combine is getting us ready for May's Draft, we must remember that Free Agency opens up well before then. Last night brought news that will excite NFL teams ahead of Free Agency - especially the New England Patriots:

Red Bryant is hitting the market. He could attract a lot of interest as teams will be trying to imitate the Seattle Seahawks after their defense led them to Super Bowl glory, just as the likes of Paul Kruger and Dannell Ellerbe got big money off the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl success last year. However, the impact Bryant could have is not news to the Patriots, who, as Mike Reiss points out, have already tried to secure his services in 2012.

Bryant resisted a strong recruiting effort from Bill Belichick to re-sign with Seattle.

"The Patriots were interested and I definitely was listening. I thought it was a great opportunity for me, and the likelihood of me going there was high," Bryant said in October of 2012 after inking a five-year deal with a reported maximum value of $35 million, adding that family considerations were also part of keeping him in the Pacific Northwest.

Though, interest in 2012 doesn't automatically mean interest in 2014. Bryant was a 3-4 defensive end in Seattle, however he would most likely be a defensive tackle in the Patriots 4-3 system, which is a definite need on this Patriots team. Once Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly were put on IR, the interior pass rush completely disappeared and teams were able to run freely on them. The addition of reliable, experienced depth would be a welcome addition to the team. It would also relieve a lot of pressure on Wilfork and Kelly - both older players coming off season ending injuries, the chance of rotation will keep them fresher for longer and will mean any rehab doesn't have to be rushed and some risks can be avoided.

Will Vince be able to bounce back? Source: AP
However, is Red Bryant the guy to fill that need? You might even suggest that the guys who filled in last season should be given another shot, so the Patriots shouldn't go after a veteran DT and use the money elsewhere. Joe Vellano and Chris Jones looked capable when alongside Wilfork or Kelly, Sealver Siliga also impressed later on in the year. The dfensive line ma be a need, but is it big enough to use the little cap room you have on a rotational guy, when there are younger players already there who can do a job in rotation with your veterans?

The Seattle/Baltimore comparison is also slightly worrying - is the sum of Seattle's front seven greater than its parts? Bobby Wagner is a stud at MLB, and then the rest is filled with players who looked good and played very well as a unit, helped by a secondary with arguably the best Cornerback and the 2 best Safeties in the NFL. So the question has to be raised if Bryant can replicate his performances at Seattle on a worse defense.

Overall, Bryant would be a good addition to the Patriots defensive line. He'll add a good run stuffer to the defensive line, which could be vital considering nothing can be guaranteed about Wilfork's ability heading into the new season and add more experience to a young defense. However, while the signing of Bryant would be a nice pick up, DT might be the least of the Patriots worries heading into free agency. Cornerback is a need even if they keep hold of Aqib Talib, Wide Receiver is a need even if they keep hold of Julian Edelman. There is still a need at Tight End, Defensive End and Safety too. So if the Patriots are to pick up Bryant, they better be sure it's at the right price.

Should the Patriots target Bryant? Let us know in the comments.

Find me on Twitter @BrendanAnnely

Brendan Annely 2/24/2014 12:35:00 PM Edit

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