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Free agent snapshot: Defensive lineman Mike DeVito

02.12.13 at 11:42 am ET
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We’ve already touched on the possibility of Ed Reed as a potential Patriot here, but when free agency begins, there are a handful of less-heralded players who could appeal to New England as well. Over the next week, we’ll look at five relatively under-the-radar possibilities for the Patriots to consider when free agency opens early next month. Again, we have to stress that these guys aren’t necessarily considered the elite of the free agent class — instead, they are players we think would be a good fit in New England. On Monday, we looked at Desmond Bryant. Next, it’s Mike DeVito.

Mike DeVito

Mike DeVito

MIKE DeVITO
Position: Defensive lineman
Age: 28 (will turn 29 on June 10)
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 305 pounds

The skinny: A sturdy and dependable presence up front for the Jets for the last five seasons, this New England native — he grew up on Cape Cod and played collegiately at Maine — was signed by the Jets as an undrafted free agent in the spring of 2007. One of the few holdovers from the Eric Mangini era, he flourished under Rex Ryan when he took over in 2009. Since the start of the 2008 season, DeVito has played in 75 of a possible 80 games, starting 38 of them. He’s not an every-down guy — he’d likely come off the field on third downs in the New England defense — but his versatility has been impressive, as he’s lined up at defensive tackle, defensive end and nose tackle over the course of his career. He’s known primarily as a run-stopper — per Pro Football Focus, DeVito has graded out in the top 10 in run defense among 3-4 defensive ends each of the past three seasons, including a top-four finish in 2011. When it comes to free agent defensive ends, there are some relatively big names out there, including Cliff Avril, Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora, which likely will reduce DeVito to a spot on the secondary level of contracts. If the Patriots land DeVito, it certainly wouldn’t qualify as a big splash, but whoever lands him will be getting a highly regarded player who could be an important part of an elite defense.

By the numbers: According to Pro Football Focus, DeVito played 635 defensive snaps in 2012, the second most of his career. He finished the 2010 season (including the playoffs) with 697 snaps.

Why it would work: DeVito’s versatility would allow him to work at multiple spots in the New England offense. While he’s spent the bulk of his career at defensive end, he’s also lined up at defensive tackle and nose tackle as well, and could provide a complementary presence for fellow linemen/linebackers like Vince Wilfork, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis. And as with Bryant, the Patriots could compensate him relatively fairly but also structure a cap-friendly deal that wouldn’t break the bank. (For a reference point, DeVito is coming off a three-year contract that had him making base salaries of $1.04 million in 2010, $1.475 in 2011 and $1.31 million in 2012.)

Why it might not work: DeVito underwent shoulder surgery prior to the start of the 2012 season, and he also suffered an injury to his left MCL late in the 2011 season. But other than that, there don’t appear to be too many medical red flags. There’s also the possibility that the Jets could prioritize him in free agency, but their cap situation is such that they had to make some cuts, and DeVito could be available as a result.

Quote: “I can tell you this about Mike DeVito: He is an outstanding football player. There is no question about it.” Jets coach Rex Ryan

Our take: It’s hard to find someone with a bad word about DeVito — my “NFL Sunday” partner Matt Chatham played with him briefly in New York and raved about his skill level and how well he would mesh with the New England system. His versatility is impressive, as well as his willingness to see the bigger picture. (He took a cut in his base salary before the start of the 2012 season to help the Jets’ try to get some cap relief; he was able to make a chunk of it back by hitting playing-time incentives.) In 2010, the Patriots were able to swipe Danny Woodhead off the New York roster, and the running back went on to great success in New England. DeVito isn’t as an underrated presence as Woodhead was, but it appears he can bring the same sort of under-the-radar impact. Don’t break the bank for him, but he could be the sort of guy who could end up playing a lot of snaps in New England’s system if he signed with the Patriots.

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