The Patriots defensive line played better than most had expected coming into the season last year and at times was a bright spot for a primarily bad defense. Andre Carter was a great surprise and played exceptional prior to his season ending knee injury. Mark Anderson proved to be a great signing considering once Carter went down he stepped right in and ended the regular season with 10 sacks. Both Carter and Anderson will be free agents this offseason so keeping both seems rather unlikely. If healthy Carter is the more likely signing but as players age injuries like Carter suffered are much harder to bounce back from. Shaun Ellis and Gerard Warren are also free agents and I don’t expect the Pats to hang on to either, as they are both far past their prime. The anchor of the defensive line is obviously big Vince Wilfork and he will certainly maintain that role next year. Kyle Love and Brandon Deadrick have both been great surprises for the Pats, but they are not exactly quality NFL starters. Through the recent years the Patriots been reluctant to use first round picks on defensive lineman, but I expect that pattern to change this year. Of course if the Pats make a move prior to the draft and sign a top-tier free agent to play defensive end then they will more than likely shy away from defensive lineman in the first couple rounds. There are many quality options this offseason so talent certainly won’t be the issue. Some of the possible Patriots options are as follows.
Mario Williams: Obviously this signing would be a huge stretch, and with a young and very talented Texans team Williams might be more willing to stick around. He would certainly help turn this defense around who ranked 31st in yards against last season. Williams would be used as a hybrid D-Line / Outside Linebacker for the Patriots.
Robert Mathis: Mathis is a great pass rusher with Pro-Bowl talent and would be a huge upgrade for the Pats. Mathis is more likely to leave Indy seeing as they are clearly about to begin their rebuilding process and when that occurs the veterans usually are not a part of their plans.
Aaron Smith: Smith might stay put in Pittsburgh but this would certainly be a viable option for the Pats. Belichick loves to stack depth at the defensive line position with veterans so this would certainly be along the lines of a typical Patriots signing. Smith has shown he can get after the QB.
Other possible options: