Patriots bolster defensive line, run defense by re-signing former first-round pick

The Patriots don't often make splashy free-agent signings, but that doesn't mean they don't make important additions via free agency. On Monday, the Patriots made another one of those under-the-radar type of signings by bringing back defensive tackle Danny Shelton on a one-year deal to bolster their run defense.

The news was first reported by ESPN's Field Yates before the team announced the move. The financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but it's likely the deal won't cost the Patriots much in terms of dollars.

Shelton, a former first-round pick of the Browns, joined the Patriots a little over a year ago when New England traded for him. He went on to log one start and 13 appearances in the regular season, recording 21 combined tackles in the process. In the Super Bowl, he notched two combined tackles, one of which went for a loss. 

His finish to the season might've been what convinced the Patriots to bring him back. According to Pro Football Focus, he earned a team-high 83.4 grade from Week 16 until the Super Bowl. He was also the Patriots' most effective run stopper against the Rams in the Super Bowl, according to PFF, when the Patriots held the Rams to 62 rushing yards. 

Before free agency began, he ranked seventh on PFF's list of interior defensive linemen who were impending free agents. It's worth noting that Malcom Brown, who spent the past four seasons with the Patriots, was ranked sixth on that list, and he ended up leaving New England for New Orleans. Not to mention, the Patriots also lost standout defensive end Trey Flowers to the Lions in free agency. The Patriots filled Flowers' void by trading for Michael Bennett. They also drafted defensive end Chase Winovich in the third round as well as defensive tackle Byron Cowart in the fifth round. So, the Patriots' defensive line is going to look a lot different in 2019.

Shelton, 25, should continue to be a member of the rotation, although if his usage is a lot like last season, he shouldn't expect to see the field all that frequently. While he was effective down the stretch against the run, Shelton played on only 34.4 percent of snaps last season, per PFF. He's an important, but small piece on the Patriots' defense.

Drafted 12th overall out of Washington in 2015, Shelton has yet to blossom into the kind of star the Browns thought he'd become. That said, he's carved out a role for himself on the best team in football, which isn't the worst way to spend an NFL career. 

CBS Sports Writer

Sean Wagner-McGough joined CBS Sports in 2015 after graduating from UC Berkeley. A native of Seattle, Sean now resides in the Bay Area. He spends his spare time defending Jay Cutler on Twitter. Full Bio

Our Latest Stories