Patriots Interested in Signing Former First-Round Pick: Report

Bill Belichick

Getty The Patriots could sign former first-round pick Jabrill Peppers.

The New England Patriots could be aiming to sign a former first-round draft pick.

As reported by Field Yates of ESPN on Monday, March 28, the Patriots are hosting safety Jabrill Peppers for a visit. That’s rather notable because Peppers played for Patriots offensive assistant Joe Judge when he was the head coach of the New York Giants over the past two seasons.

“The Patriots are hosting former Giants and Browns S Jabrill Peppers on a visit today, per source,” says Yates. “Peppers played for Joe Judge in 2020-2021, so there’s familiarity already. The 26-year old brings plenty of defensive versatility, something New England always covets.”

Why Peppers Appeals to the Patriots

Peppers was a first-round pick of the Cleveland Browns back in 2017 after a prestigious linebacker career at the University of Michigan. Pepper has been a steady starter during his five seasons in the league, starting 59 of his 61 appearances.

However, he is coming off of a serious ACL injury last season. Peppers was limited to just six games, the first time he hasn’t appeared in a double-digit games in a season in his career.

As Pro Football Focus explains, the 26-year-old Peppers is likely to command a one-year deal where he can set himself up for next offseason with a multi-year contract. Considering the Patriots’ lack of salary cap space and their recent trend of bargain bin contracts this offseason, that would fit well with New England’s plans.

“Peppers was on his way to finishing the season with double-digit quarterback pressures for the fourth year in a row while playing on a crowded Giants safety unit,” says PFF. “The former first-round pick suffered an unfortunate ACL injury in Week 7 of his fifth-year option season but has shown the ability to be disruptive down in the box and solid in the slot as a nickel back. Multi-year deals may not await him this offseason, but a solid one-year flier could help set him up for next offseason.”

Peppers isn’t an elite safety, but he’s young and prior to his ACL injury, was a rather injury-free player throughout his career. And because of his linebacker experience, he excels while rushing the passer. According to Pro Football Focus, Peppers a 76.3 pass-rushing grade in 2020 (16th among all safeties) and an 83.9 pass-rushing grade (fourth among safeties) in 2019.

Because of his versatility, head coach Bill Belichick may find various ways to use the veteran safety.

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Scott Pioli Defends Patriots’ Free Agency

Despite the Patriots’ slow approach to free agency in 2022, former team executive Scott Pioli says there’s a method to the madness. Pioli — who served as director of player personnel and vice president of player personnel between 2001 and 2008 — preaches patience with New England’s approach.

Via WEEI’s Alex Reimer:

“Player acquisition isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon,” Pioli said. “Just like the season. Last year the entire league was in a depressed market, so the Patriots went out and spent two years worth of free agency money and they received tremendous value. You look at the financial terms a year later and they look very good.”

“The first wave of free agency has ended,” Pioli continued. “We’re now into this second wave. In this second wave, there’s a new free agency, because once players are signed, [other] players get cut. So now there are even more players [available]. After the draft, there will be more players cut. After the 53-man cut, there will be more players available in free agency. So building a football team and building a roster is something that takes a lot of work, a lot of time, and a lot of patience.”

The Patriots’ most notable signings have actually been their re-signing of Trent Brown and the signing of former New England cornerback Malcolm Butler.

With their AFC rivals making blockbuster moves this offseason, fans are starting to grow impatient with the Patriots’ inactivity during the free agency period.

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