Last season marked the first time since 2001 that the Patriots had a full-time starting right defensive end other than Richard Seymour. Eight-year veteran Jarvis Green stepped in, but now it looks like he will depart in free agency.
Assuming the Patriots stay in their 3-4 alignment, who fills the void?
Six-year veteran Mike Wright and second-year player Ron Brace are two top in-house options, but the Patriots might find that the draft offers the best solution. As ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli writes, 3-4 defenses in search of defensive ends have a deep crop from which to choose. There were a lot of bigger ends at the NFL combine.
"The job description for an end in the 3-4 is dramatically different than that of a 4-3 end, and that is clear in their weight disparities," Pasquarelli writes. "In 2009, the average weight of a 3-4 starting end in the NFL was 299.9 pounds; for a 4-3, it was 271.1 pounds. Of the league's 26 starting ends in the 3-4, all weighed 280 pounds or more, and 11 were 300 pounds or more. Just two of the 38 starting ends who played the 4-3 weighed more than 300 pounds. Nine were 260 pounds or less."
The Patriots have leaned in that bigger-is-better direction at defensive end in Bill Belichick's 10-year tenure.
Assuming that doesn't change, this looks like a good year to fill that void in the draft.