The New England Patriots bolstered their depth at linebacker on Wednesday, signing veteran James Anderson, who led the Chicago Bears in tackles last season and is considered to be effective in a coverage-type role.
To make room for Anderson, the club released first-year receiver Mark Harrison, an undrafted free agent from 2013 who spent last year on injured reserve with a foot injury.
Anderson, 30, had worked out for the Patriots in April. He has played for the Panthers (2006-12) and Bears (2013), and at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, he is known more for his coverage ability than physical play. He projects to a reserve, sub-type role on defense, as the Patriots are solid at the top of the linebacker depth chart with Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins, but were thin depth-wise after not drafting a player at the position.
In Chicago last season, Anderson started all 16 games and finished with 102 tackles and four sacks. The Bears elected not to re-sign him despite that production.
Because Anderson's signing comes after June 1, it doesn't count against the Patriots' compensatory draft pick formula for picks awarded in 2015.
As for Harrison, he was viewed by analysts as a possible late-round prospect in 2013, in part because of his unique physical traits (6-foot-2 7/8, 231 pounds). But he went undrafted and after a brief stop in Chicago, he landed in New England for the year. He was on the field in organized team activities last week.
One line of thinking was that he could be a potential candidate as a "move" tight end, but coach Bill Belichick dismissed that possibility at the draft, saying that after missing a season, it would be hard to change his position upon his return.