Opinion: DL Fanene to Pats

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
4:06
PM ET
In agreeing to a free-agent contract with Bengals defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene, the Patriots played the role of the sniper. The team and Fanene agreed to a three-year, $12 million deal, with a $3.85 million signing bonus, without Fanene even visiting Gillette Stadium.

[+] EnlargeFanene
AP Photo/Tom GannamAt 6-foot-4 and 292 pounds, Jonathan Fanene has some position versatility, playing both at end and tackle in the Bengals' 4-3 defense.
The lack of a free-agent visit for Fanene speaks to how the Patriots had him in their sights from the opening of free agency on Tuesday.

Fanene was a player they identified weeks ago as a primary target because of a combination of affordability, versatility, production and need.

Affordability. This isn't a big-money signing. It's a good deal for Fanene, for sure, but far from the Red Bryant $7 million-per-year signing in Seattle. The Bengals probably viewed the $4 million per year for Fanene as rich for a player who played 45 percent of time. For the Patriots, who figure to play him a bit more, the money works (close to Shaun Ellis money from 2011).

Versatility. The 6-foot-4, 290-pound Fanene can play all across the line. He was primarily a 4-3 end with the Bengals, and he reduced inside as a rusher in passing situations. The feeling here is that his greatest value will come in a Mike Wright type of role as an interior rusher, but he could also factor as an end in early-down base situations.

Production. Fanene had 6.5 sacks last season in part-time duty.

Need. Outside of Vince Wilfork, Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick, the Patriots have questions along the defensive line. Wilfork played 87 percent of the snaps last season, a high total, and Fanene's work as an interior rusher could help spell Wilfork in certain situations to keep him fresh. This shouldn't affect the possible re-signings of rush ends Andre Carter and Mark Anderson.

Summing up the move: This isn't a sizzling free-agent signing, but it's a smart one.

On March 4, we wrote: "Here’s an under-the-radar player to file away when it comes to free agency – Bengals defensive end Jonathan Fanene. The eight-year veteran had 6.5 sacks last season in a part-time role and has some position versatility. Could see him as a value-type pickup for the Patriots as they look to build more quality depth up front."

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Comments

You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?