Patriots Sign Former First-Rounder and Heisman Finalist

Jabrill Peppers

Getty Jabrill Peppers

The New England Patriots have signed former Cleveland Browns and New York Giants safety Jabrill Peppers to a one-year deal, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Mike Reiss.

Peppers, a former first-round pick by the Browns and a Heisman finalist at Michigan, visited the Patriots earlier in the week. Now he will join New England’s secondary for the 2022 season.

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Peppers, 26, is primarily a strong safety, but he offers a great deal of versatility because of his physicality and his ability to play in the box. In some ways, Peppers’ style of play resembles that of former Patriots safety Patrick Chung, which might be part of the reason the Patriots were interested in him.

Peppers missed more than half of the 2021 season after he ruptured his ACL on October 24 in a game against the Carolina Panthers. However, he is expected to be ready for training camp.

Before his season-ending injury, Peppers had an overall 58.7 grade from Pro Football Focus, which was the lowest grade of his five-year career. However, he still had a 80.6 pass rush grade, good for sixth in the league. His best season was 2018, when he got a 77.6 grade from PFF, ranking him 19th of 93 safeties graded.


Reaction to the Peppers Signing

Members of the media hit Twitter with reactions to the signing of Peppers.

NBC Sports’ Phil A. Perry noted that the Peppers signing has some connections to members of the team’s front office — specifically director of scouting Eliot Wolfe.

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ESPN’s Field Yates offered some details on the length and money involved with Peppers’ deal.

USA Today’s Henry McKenna likes what the Patriots are building in the way of slot defenders but sees the team’s potential issues covering wide receivers on the outside.

 

It seems a bit late in free agency to acquire a free agent capable of locking down high-level receivers. So New England might have to look to the NFL draft in April to find what it lacks in the secondary.

Peppers’ modest short-term deal fits with the Patriots’ apparent offseason M.O.: sign free agents on prove-it deals with little long-term or high-dollar investments.

The Patriots might be able to remain competitive with strong performances by veterans with something to prove, breakout seasons from second- and third-year players and a fruitful draft.


What Peppers’ Addition Means for the Patriots’ Secondary

Besides giving the Patriots depth in the box and in those hybrid DB-LB roles that Bill Belichick traditionally loves, Peppers brings “juice” to the team, said Joe Judge, who was Peppers’ head coach on the Giants is now an a Patriots assistant.

“It’s really tough having a guy like that who puts so much into the team, puts the team first, does everything you ask him to do to the best of his ability, brings so much juice to the team, is a productive player on the field, wears so many hats for you on the team and is always like, ‘Whatever you need, Coach, here I go,’ ” Judge said after Peppers tore the ACL, according to a March 29 Boston Globe story. “For this to end his season, that’s something you don’t want to see for any player.”

Coming off the injury, Peppers is in a position to deliver an inspiring performance. His athleticism and strength might also help to take some pressure off a linebacker group that has struggled to cover over the middle and contain mobile quarterbacks.

We might see some lineups with Pepper and Phillips on the field if Belichick believes both men are capable of shedding blocks and remaining effective against the run.

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