Derek Rivers' fit in Patriots' defense starts with the pass rush

Touching on New England Patriots hot topics in the form of a mailbag:

Matthew, one of the trickle-down effects of the Patriots' signing of free-agent defensive end Adrian Clayborn on Friday was the reaction on Twitter when I listed the DE depth chart and 2017 top draft pick Derek Rivers (third round, No. 83 overall) wasn't on it. I had included Rivers instead with the linebacker group of Dont'a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Harvey Langi as players who aren't traditional 4-3 defensive ends (Rivers is closer to 245 pounds), but all of whom could play at the end of the line of scrimmage depending on the scheme. The main thing I'd say about Rivers is that one of the best things he had going for him coming out of Youngstown State was his pass-rush skills, so if he's in a three-point stance, it would be as a substitute rusher.

Sam, I haven't seen the financial details on Jeremy Hill's deal, but the Boston Globe reported it as a one-year pact and my expectation is that it would be at a modest figure. With the 90-man roster limit, this is the time to try to build quality depth while maintaining a solid standing with the salary cap. With that in mind, I don't think it would be wise for any team to turn down a talented player with some desirable traits at any position when there is a 90-player limit. That's why projecting how the running-back position shakes out with spots on the 53-man roster now isn't really the team's primary mindset at this time, because that can change in an instant with an injury. The concept is to add quality players in the team-building process -- Hill was the 55th overall player picked in 2014 and has good size for position -- and see how it all shakes out in the end.

Mathew, the Patriots haven't drafted a running back since 2014, and it makes sense to think that streak will be broken this year. Georgia's Sony Michel would be a solid pick, but the question becomes if the Patriots want to invest at that position over other spots when they already have a depth chart of Rex Burkhead, James White, Mike Gillislee, Hill and Brandon Bolden. Michel is projected to be selected within the first two rounds, so if the Patriots don't pounce by picks 31, 43 or possibly 63, it probably won't be an option.

Myles, I don't think it changes anything for them draft-wise. The way I believe they've always tried to look at it is filling out the roster as much as possible so if they had play a regular-season game, they could be competitive. They are on their way to accomplishing that goal. And when taking that approach, it doesn't lock them into a specific position in the draft, although I'd still put left tackle atop the list.

Kevin, Dwayne Allen is valuable in his role as the No. 2 tight end and is the type of person the Patriots like in their locker room. While a $4.5 million base salary and $5 million cap charge might have seemed rich entering the 2018 league year, I could make the case that when former Eagles No. 3 tight end Trey Burton is earning $8 million in a new deal in Chicago, perhaps Allen's salary isn't as out of line as originally thought.

Dan, I wouldn't make that trade for the Patriots, even though Earl Thomas is a terrific player. I just see Rob Gronkowski as a crucial piece of New England's offense, coupled with a very good safety in Devin McCourty already on the roster. So I'm essentially choosing a Gronkowski/McCourty package over Thomas/Allen.