|Free Agent Snapshot: Mathias Kiwanuka||05.14.11 at 12:53 am ET|
Despite the labor uncertainty, WEEI.com will present a list of 10 possible fits for the Patriots in free agency (under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement) this offseason. To check out the complete list of possibilities to date, click here.
Position: Defensive end/outside linebacker
When we started this feature, we were immediately hit with a flurry of e-mails and Tweets asking whether or not we were going to include Kiwanuka as a possibility for the Patriots. So here he is: When healthy, the former Boston College product has been able to generate some very good pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He has 23.5 career sacks over 61 games in the NFL, including a career-best eight in 2008, and he had four in three games last season before going down with a season-ending neck injury. (To put that in perspective, he would have tied for third on the 2010 Patriots’ in sacks.)
Kiwanuka has displayed some versatility in New York’s scheme, playing both defensive end and outside linebacker. In fact, Giants’ defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was grooming Kiwanuka to serve as a chess piece who would play multiple spots before the former BC star was injured, and Fewell later said the injury was a big blow to New York’s defense. “I think about that all the time,” Fewell told reporters at the end of December who asked about the loss of Kiwanuka. “Tom [Coughlin] tells me don’t cry over spilled milk. You never know the impact of a player, but I think about [Kiwanuka] like, ‘Boy, if we had him, we could do this, we could do this, we would be like this, we would be like that, we could change our complexion a little bit more.’”
(For what it’s worth, Kiwanuka’s overall compatibility with the Patriots’ 3-4 base defense — where he would be an outside linebacker — is a question, but he certainly fits the Willie McGinest body type the Patriots look for at the outside linebacker spot.)
Why it might not work: Like Manny Lawson, under the old rules, he’d be a restricted free agent, which could mean he’d be a bit pricey. (There’s still the possibility that he would be unrestricted if the language is changed in the new CBA.) But there’s also the long-term question about Kiwanuka’s health — at the combine in February, Giants GM Jerry Reese acknowledged Kiwanuka’s career is in jeopardy following the neck injury he suffered last year, a statement he later backpedaled from. (Of course, if he is made available, the injury history would almost certainly drive his price down.)
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