FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots signed Brandon Spikes to a one-year contract Monday, adding experienced depth at the off-the-line linebacker spot. This has been an area the club has explored throughout the offseason, offering deals to Rolando McClain and Andrew Gachkar, both of whom signed in Dallas instead.
The Patriots' focus at the position is likely tied to starters Jerod Mayo (patellar tendon) and Dont'a Hightower (labrum) coming off injuries and surgery. Spikes' knowledge of the scheme from having played in New England from 2010-13 surely had some appeal to the Patriots.
Let's re-set the off-the-line linebacker depth chart:
Jerod Mayo (6-1, 250) -- Eight-year veteran who leads the huddle took a pay cut in 2015 as he's coming off back-to-back seasons shortened by injury.
Dont'a Hightower (6-3, 270) -- A 2012 first-round draft choice, he had the best season of his NFL career in 2014 after being prematurely labeled a bust by some on the local talk-radio circuit.
Jamie Collins (6-3, 250) -- Rising star who went from 25.8 percent playing time on defense as a rookie in 2013 to 84.7 percent last year.
Brandon Spikes (6-2, 255) -- Hard-hitting downhill presence who is best against the run.
Jonathan Freeny (6-2, 254) -- Former Dolphin who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers in 2012, he signed a one-year deal after not being tendered as a restricted free agent. His primary experience has come on special teams.
Eric Martin (6-2, 250) -- A third-year pro out of Nebraska, he played 29 games for the Browns from 2013-2014 -- mostly on special teams -- before joining New England's practice squad in late December.
Darius Fleming (6-2, 255) -- The Notre Dame alum split time between the Patriots' practice squad and roster (8 total games) last season, with his primary role on special teams.
James Morris (6-2, 240) -- Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Iowa in 2014, he spent last year on season-ending injured reserve. The team said he had an ankle injury.
Cameron Gordon (6-3, 240) -- Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan in 2014, he spent last year on season-ending injured reserve.
Chris White (6-3, 238) -- A core special teamer for New England the past two seasons, he signed a one-year deal as a free agent this offseason.
Dekoda Watson (6-2, 240) -- The former Buccaneer (2010-2013), Jaguar (2014, 9 games) and Cowboy (2014, 1 game) signed a one-year deal May 12 and is known mostly as a strong special teamer.
Matt Wells (6-2, 222) -- Described by coach Bill Belichick as a hybrid linebacker/safety, the sixth-round draft choice out of Mississippi State is known for his speed and special teams work.