Lots of things to consider with veteran DE Chris Long and Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The "Long" story short? The New England Patriots are loaded at defensive end and would be in good shape if the 2016 season started today with Chandler Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers on the depth chart.

At the same time, longtime Rams defensive end Chris Long -- who visited the club on Monday -- would make them better.

So while a Patriots-Long combination seems more like a luxury than a necessity, it's still intriguing to consider the possibility and the potential trickle-down effects of it.

Long reportedly will take three more visits this week, and then assess his best fit. He has said he wants to play for a contender.

One of the dynamics in play in New England is that Jones, Ninkovich and Sheard all enter the last year of their contracts. Jones and Sheard could be in line for big-money deals -- it will be Jones' first crack at unrestricted free agency -- and the soon-to-be-31-year-old Long could add a veteran layer of insurance beyond 2016 on a multiple-year deal.

Long's potential arrival would give the club more flexibility should an enticing trade opportunity present itself with Jones, especially if there was a feeling that a contract extension between the sides was going to be a longer shot. Jones is one of several core defenders with a contract expiring after the 2016 season, a group that includes linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins and cornerback Malcolm Butler, among others.

Another outside-the-box thought is that if Bill Belichick and his staff felt the numbers were too great at defensive end with Long's potential arrival, perhaps they consider Grissom at tight end, where they're currently looking for reinforcements after releasing Scott Chandler. Grissom, a 2015 third-round pick out of Oklahoma, worked out for some teams as a tight end before last year's draft and Belichick was complimentary of what he saw.

But that might be over-analyzing it, as there could still be room for Long and the returning five players on the defensive end depth chart. Carrying six defensive ends would be a higher total than the norm, but there is a cross-over between the end-of-the-line position in the team's defense with the more traditional off-the-line linebacker spot. The team could always carry one fewer off-the-line linebacker in that scenario.

These are some of the intriguing dynamics in play with the Long-to-the-Patriots possibility.