Add Rutgers' defensive lineman Justin Francis to the pass-rushing mix, as he has agreed to a rookie free-agent contract with the Patriots, a source confirms.
Francis (6-2, 268) started 13 games at defensive tackle last season and registered 6.5 sacks. One of his top physical assets is long arms (33 7/8 inches), as he deflected five passes and blocked three kicks last season.
Francis, who was suspended for the 2008 season after an on-campus arrest, has experience at both end and tackle. In the NFL, he projects to more of an end position, and could factor into sub packages if he makes the club.
The emphasis on sub packages has been one of the themes of the offseason for the Patriots, with Bill Belichick acknowledging that the team is spending less time in its 3-4 alignment as the game is being played more in space.
So players like Francis, an athletic, one-year starter who is viewed by some as a "tweener", might have more appeal to the club than in the past. He joins first-round draft choice Chandler Jones, third-round draft choice Jake Bequette and 2011 sixth-round pick Markell Carter as prospects looking to make a mark on the edge in whatever scheme the Patriots are playing.