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Strength in numbers?

Posted by Albert Breer  May 14, 2010 10:15 AM

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On balance, the one-year accord struck between the Patriots and veteran Derrick Burgess is a relatively minor transaction.

When a guy's been sitting on the free-agent market for two-and-a-half months with barely a sniff or two coming his way, that's the way it is.

But Burgess' return means some of the things we saw at the end of last year -- with the team's "UFO" nickel fronts -- are an option again. A couple conditions need to exist to play the way the Patriots did with that package. First and foremost, you have to stop the run and create bad down-and-distance situations for the offense. Second, you have to have a full stable of pass-rushing hybrid types, so there's the legit feel that anyone can drop or come at the passer.

Burgess opens things up in that regard. Where the Patriots don't have anything approximating the kind of rusher that opponents have to game-plan, they do have some numbers now.

OK, so what else does Burgess do for you -- other than the above, as well as being an insurance policy if your young players don't develop as quickly?

Well, Pro Football Focus' metrics show that Burgess improved over the course of last year. But if you check out the figures over at Advanced Football Stats, Burgess doesn't show up among the top hundred or so linebackers ranked, or the top hundred or so defensive ends listed. Meanwhile, the ESPN scouts have him ranked with Paul Spicer, Greg Ellis and Leonard Little among the free agents at his position.

Which is, yeah, about what this seems to be. Not a bad signing, and definitely a chance to get more of a return on those third- and fifth-round draft picks yielded last summer. But certainly not, at this point, any kind of overwhelming addition.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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