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The Patriots have made their first big move in free agency, as they've signed defensive lineman/line backer Jabaal Sheard to a two-year, $11 million deal. Sheard comes over from the Cleveland Browns and looks to beef up New England's pass rush.

Sheard was a 2011 second round pick of the Browns out of the University of Pittsburgh. Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com reports that the Patriots were fond of Sheard back then, but elected to go with oft-injured corner back Ras-I Dowling instead.

Sheard's versatility is something the Patriots value in a player, as he can play in multiple packages and defensive schemes. He has 23 sacks in four years and can also help the Patriots' run defense, which at times was gashed for big gains.

Reiss also notes his toughness was something that stood out to New England:

Toughness -- This is what drew us to Sheard coming out of the 2011 draft, as the University of Pittsburgh product had an element of toughness that stood out. He has missed just three games over four NFL seasons playing in the smash-mouth AFC North, so that toughness has carried over to the NFL.

The Patriots need durability on the line and in the linebacking corps, as Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins and other significant players on the defense missed time last season.

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Jesse Gaunce 3/12/2015 10:15:00 AM Edit
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