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The Patriots added depth along their defensive line Tuesday, signing defensive end Marcus Stroud.
Stroud, 32, played in Jacksonville for seven seasons before being traded to the Buffalo Bills in 2008. During his time with the Jaguars, Stroud was considered one of the best interior defensive players in the NFL. Stroud’s production on the field led the 6-6 310-pound mammoth to three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 2003-2005.
However, Stroud’s three-year stint in Buffalo was uneventful. The former Georgia Bulldog failed to live up to the lofty expectations, recording just 7.5 sacks in three seasons. Stroud was due to make $4.5 million next season for the Bills.
Stroud joins a group in New England decimated by injuries late in the season. Since the departure of Richard Seymour, the Patriots have been inconsistent up-front. Youngsters Myron Pryor and Brandon Deaderick have shown the ability to be apart of the rotation, but either provides the upside to be a starter. Heading into 2011, it appears that the incumbent Ty Warren and Mike Wright will start on the edges with Vince Wilfork in the middle. However, Warren’s regression over the last couple of seasons could make way for Pryor, Deaderick or even Stroud.
In March it’s hard to determine the type of impact that Stroud will have for the Patriots. Although he struggled in Buffalo, he will have a better surrounding cast in New England. Kyle Williams, albeit solid, is no Wilfork — so the presence of one of the best defensive tackles in the NFL will be beneficial for Stroud.
Stroud will also be a leader that this young defensive line needs in the locker room, especially for someone like Ron Brace. Brace has greatly underachieved since the Patriots drafted him in the second round of the 2009 draft. In two seasons, the Springfield, Mass. native has just 31 tackles in 22 games. Adding a proven veteran — like Stroud — will get Brace and others to raise their level of play.
Even with the signing, look for the Patriots to add a pass-rushing defensive end in April. With the exceptions of Tully Banta-Cain and 2010 second round pick Jermaine Cunningham, the Patriots don’t have a viable option to rush the quarterback. At his best, Stroud is more of a run-stuffing end than a pass-rusher.
The terms of Stroud’s contract are unknown.
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