ESPN football insider John Clayton talked with the Mut & Merloni show Tuesday afternoon and discussed one of the newest Patriots acquisitions, defensive end Shaun Ellis, who Clayton expects is the final signal that New England is in line for a scheme change.
"I think they figured out that Sean is going to be a valuable part of what looks to be a 4-3 defense," Clayton said. "Maybe the 3-4 days are going to be at least temporarily held back. I'm sure they can switch into a 3-4, but you can see now to try to get the pressure that they haven't been able to get from the linebacker position, they're going to get as many good, big bodies as they can up front to at least win the battle at the line of scrimmage."
That being said, Ellis turned down a one-year deal to stay with the Jets. Instead, the Patriots nabbed him and Clayton thought that deal was due to the limited dollars the Jets were offering the defensive end.
"I think they would have liked to have him back almost as a courtesy, but when you offer a veteran like that the minimum salary, I think you're telling him something, particularly somebody that's been there for so long, a guy that goes back to the Bill Parcells days," Clayton said.
But of course, any discussion about the Patriots offseason wheelings and dealings cannot go without some talk about Albert Haynesworth's addition on the defensive line. Although his production dropped considerably as his years in Washington went by, Clayton said he thought a change in scenery as well as the switch to the 4-3 should do the defensive tackle a lot of good.
"When he wants to be, he's unblockable," said the ESPN analyst. "Even go back to what you saw his first year in Washington. Now that wasn't a great Washington team. It was pretty average, but what they had to do was put two or three guys on him and so what it ended up doing was taking their two defensive ends, Andre Carter - who of course will be playing with Albert again - and the rookie at the time Brian Orakpo, and put them in double-digit sack seasons. This is from a team, I think if I'm not mistaken, that may have had like 13-17 sacks the year before. Well, they had 20 from the guys playing outside Albert.
"Albert draws a lot of attention, and he can physically dominate people and also too he can get push on the quarterback and try to get through those blockers. So I think what you're going to see is more of that and less what you saw last year."
Haynesworth and Ellis are just two moves of many this offseason in which the Patriots have targeted veteran players who may be on the decline of their careers but have had plenty of past successes. That drew some praise from Clayton in his interview with M&M.
"I think what they're bringing in are guys that have won, guys that have had success, guys that they know can do it and also addressing needs," Clayton said. "You know, once they made the decision with Randy Moss almost talking himself off the roster, they needed one more outside guy and now they get him in Chad Ochocinco. I think that for years after not finding that right rushing outside linebacker, they thought, "Right, how do we do it? Let's build up the defensive line in a 4-3." You look at the guys. How many Pro Bowls? How many great games have been played in all those defensive linemen that they acquired? What it also does is frees up Albert Haynesworth to maybe only 35-40 plays per game to be that dominant type of player. So I really like a lot of the things they're doing and I think it could very well translate into the postseason."
Also in light of the news that Jerry Rice called out Moss on failing to live up to his potential, Clayton said, as many have before him, that he expects we haven't heard the last of Moss in the NFL.
"Even though he did send a little note to Roger Goodell saying he was retiring, I don't think anybody's buying the fact that he's not going to play football this season," Clayton said. "It comes down to the right situation. ... He may wait until late August, early September, but I think if the right situation and the right team is there, he'll come back.