It’s often hard to read into what Bill Belichick is thinking, but he has a reputable track record when it comes to adding veteran free agents.
By the looks of how defensive lineman Tommy Kelly played in the first five games of last season before suffering an ACL injury, Belichick hit on another risk. Kelly, the 33-year-old tackle who was signed by the Cardinals on Wedesday, was on pace for the best season of his career before getting hurt last October. But philosophies change, personnel is turned over, schemes are altered and Kelly found himself without a job, regardless of the fact that he was running with the Patriots' first team during training camp.
On Wednesday, he landed in a place where he might be able to have an instant impact because of the defensive linemen around him.
Throughout his career, when Kelly has played alongside another talented defensive lineman, such as Warren Sapp or Richard Seymour, his production grew. His career-high 7.5 sacks were with Seymour in 2011 and he shared a defensive line with Sapp for his career-high 67 tackles.
In Arizona, Kelly won’t be the center of attention on the line –- that honor goes to Calais Campbell, who’s coming off a career season with nine sacks. But coupled with the likes of John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy off the edge, Kelly won’t feel the need to be the main cog of the defense. He can rush the quarterback alongside them, giving the Cardinals much-needed depth in their pass rush.
With Alameda Ta'amu returning from ACL surgery, he and Dan Williams will rotate at nose tackle, leaving Kelly as a solid backup for Frostee Rucker. Add Ed Stinson to the rotation, and possibly Isaac Sopoaga, and Arizona’s defensive line depth has been solved.