When outside-linebacker Derrick Burgess re-signed with New England this may, the Patriots assured themselves of a veteran presence to hold down the OLB fort opposite Tully Banta-Cain until rookie Jermaine Cunningham was able to take over the reigns. Or so they thought.
With Burgess reportedly mulling retirement options, the Patriots are certainly exploring options to add depth at the OLB position. Panic, however, is something that Bill Belichick isn’t known to feel.
“You hate to not have all the players out there all the time,” Belichick said. “The guys that have the opportunities to play have worked hard and are competitive and will take advantage of it.”
Rob Ninkovich is the default starter at the moment, with his prior experience giving him the job over Cunningham. Pierre Woods and Marques Murrell will never be more than special-teamers and backups.
Dane Fletcher, an undrafted free-agent DE from Montana State, is an intriguing possibility to make the roster as well. We had heard that he was being groomed as a possible inside-linebacker, but you can’t deny his rush skills that he showed during his college career.
Outside the Patriots roster, the pickings are pretty slim. Outside of an unlikely trade for a guy like Shawne Merriman, their really only seems to be one guy available that might provide some meaningful depth.
Greg Ellis, if healthy, could provide a bit of a boost – he totaled seven sacks in fourteen games with the Raiders in 2009. Ellis was dinged up most of the last 9-10 games of the season.