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Patriots 2012 Off-Season Priorities: Defensive Ends

Andre Carter and Mark Anderson (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

In an off-season that perhaps is even more exciting than last year’s lockout-shortened free agency period, the Patriots have plenty of needs. None are bigger, however, than wide receiver and defensive end. Let’s now take a look at defensive end.

You will hear people say over the next few days that the Patriots don’t really need to pursue a pass rusher.  They’ll tell you that Andre Carter had 10 sacks in 14 regular season games.  They’ll tell you that Mark Anderson had 10 sacks in 16 regular season games.

What they won’t tell you is that Carter had four sacks in one game against the Jets in November, leaving him with six sacks in the remaining 13 games he played in.  What they won’t tell you is that Anderson had double digit sacks for the first time since the 2006-2007 season in Chicago.

Long story short, the Patriots need to get more pressure on the opposing quarterback.  Let’s take a look at a few possibilities (now that Mario Williams has decided to fade into obscurity up in Buffalo):

John Abraham

A pass rusher by nature, Abraham, who will be 34 in May, is a veteran player who could probably emulate the success Carter had for the Patriots this season. Abraham had 16.5 sacks in 2008, and has had double digit sacks six times in his 12 seasons.

Due to the thin, shallow group of defensive ends in this year’s free agent market, we must now look to the draft to find a viable pass rusher.  The Patriots, with two first- and two second-round picks, are in a position to target any one of these players:

Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

Ingram should go higher in the draft, but if the Patriots identify him as a player they need, they certainly have the assets to move up in the draft.  He totaled nine sacks for the Gamecocks last season.

Nick Perry, USC

With 12 sacks in his career at USC, Perry never quite lived up to the hype, but his talent remains attractive to teams looking for an athletic pass rusher.  Bill Belichick loves a challenge, and getting the most out of Perry might be just that.

Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

He led the NCAA with 16 sacks last season as a hybrid DE/OLB.  He’s a natural playmaker as he forced eight fumbles last season, and is a tall, long defender that has been foreign to the Patriots for years.

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