|Potential Patriots: LaMarr Woodley||02.08.11 at 11:38 pm ET|
Despite the looming labor uncertainty, as free agency approaches, WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that could be available to the Patriots in free agency this offseason.
Position: Outside linebacker
Weight: 265 pounds
Why the Patriots would be interested: New England has struggled to put together a consistent pass rush since the start of the 2009 season, and the arrival of someone like Woodley would bring an instant jolt of respectability to the outside linebacker spot. When it comes to pass rushers, Woodley figures to be one of the best available options on the free agent market — he has 39 sacks the last three years, including 13.5 in 2009 and 10 this past season. (He also had a sack in the Super Bowl XLV, which extended his NFL record of seven straight postseason games with a sack.)
Why it would happen: The 26-year-old is at the peak of his abilities. When you consider the Patriots were 14th in the league in sacks this past season with 36, the arrival of someone like Woodley would instantly change the look of the defense. In addition, he’s durable — according to Pro Football Focus, he played 1,132 of a possible 1,220 defensive snaps this season. (He played every snap of 15 of the Steelers’ 20 games this past season.)
Why it won’t happen: He was a ridiculous bargain this past season in Pittsburgh — 2010 marked the final year of a contract he signed as a rookie that paid him $550,000 annually. That’s going to change. This offseason, he will command serious dollars on the open market, and would likely have to be talked into taking less than market value to sign with New England. In addition, while his numbers aren’t in dispute, he doesn’t quite fit the physical mold of what the Patriots usually look for in their ideal outside linebacker — there’s a reason they passed over him when he was available in the 2007 draft. (He was taken in the second round by the Steelers. Instead, New England selected Brandon Meriweather.) Now, if Bill Belichick is going to go all in for an outside linebacker like he’d have to do with Woodley, history tells us that he’d be taller and leaner.
Chances he lands in New England: Not great. While there’s some question right now about the status of the franchise tag, the odds are pretty good that if its’ around, Pittsburgh would use it on Woodley. He sounds cool with that, having told reporters during Super Bowl week, “I wouldn’t be against it at all. Whatever happens, happens. Would you like to have a long-term contract? Yeah. But a franchise tag, it doesn’t matter to me.” And even if he does become available, he would command a deal somewhere in the neighborhood of Rosevelt Colvin and Adalius Thomas.
Some alternatives: Kamerion Wimbley (Raiders), Tamba Hali (Chiefs), Mike Vrabel (Chiefs), Mathias Kiwanuka (Giants).