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Analysis: Stroud insurance on line

3/1/2011

The Patriots agreeing to a two-year deal with veteran defensive lineman Marcus Stroud appears to a be a move made with insurance in mind.

The 32-year old Stroud was released by the Bills last month after a failed physical. While in Buffalo, Stroud was mainly a defensive end in the Bills' shifting 3-4/4-3 scheme.

Numbers-wise, the Patriots were already deep along the defensive line. However, a closer inspection of the personnel at the position leads to some uncertainty going into next season.

Defensive end Gerard Warren is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent, after becoming one of the mainstays on the line in 2010. Like Warren, Stroud has mostly played 4-3 defensive tackle in his career, and so this signing may be a case of the Patriots protecting themselves given the possibility of Warren leaving in free agency.

Veteran Ty Warren will be returning from a season-ending hip injury and projects to one of the two defensive end spots. But without Stroud, the team's next best options under contract for the other spot were Mike Wright, Brandon Deaderick, and Ron Brace.

This move may not speak well to the health of Wright, who missed the final two months of the season with a concussion and was not spotted by reporters in the locker room. Even if Wright is fully healthy by the start of next season, he has shown to be better served as an interior pass rusher, not as an early-down defensive end.

Deaderick was suspended briefly by the Patriots in January, leading to questions about his future in New England. Brace started five games last season but has largely underachieved after being selected in the second round of the 2009 draft.