The Patriots bolstered their depleted safety corps, added some depth to their special teams and brought on a player from the rival Jets Friday night . . . all in one fell swoop.
The team signed hard-hitting free agent safety James Ihedigbo, a graduate of Amherst Regional High School and the University of Massachusetts who joined the Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2007. He was a key contributor as a backup in Rex Ryan's secondary, setting a career high with three sacks last season, and was second on the Jets with 27 special-teams tackles.
Ihedigbo, 27, was a favorite of Ryan and special teams coach Mike Westhoff, but -- despite early indications that the team wanted to re-sign him -- wasn't pursued in free agency by New York when the Jets re-signed Eric Smith and Brodney Pool, and added free agent DaJuan Morgan to bolster the safety spot, which includes Jim Leonhard and Emanuel Cook.
The Patriots' safety corps has been depleted by injuries to James Sanders and Bret Lockett. They had only three healthysafeties -- Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung, and Sergio Brown -- onthe roster.
Ihedigbo announced the news on Twitter, telling his followers: "Thanks to jetsfans for all the love an support greatly appreciate it's on to a new chapter.....I'm Officially a New England Patriot!!!!!!" The Patriots confirmed the signing later Friday evening.
Cassius Marsh was brought to New England to help a depleted defensive end group and play in the kicking game. The Patriots wanted him badly enough that they parted with two draft picks -- a fifth and a seventh -- to acquire him in a trade with the Seahawks just before the start of the season.
Less than three months later, they've decided to part ways with the 6-foot-4, 245-pounder.
Marsh played in nine games for the Patriots this season, providing the team with an edge defender and someone with special-teams experience. He blocked a kick in Week 7 against the Falcons that earned him an enthusiastic attaboy from coach Bill Belichick.
Coming off the edge, Marsh recorded one sack and 13 hurries. Against the run, he was used more sparingly, and he was one of the Patriots on the scene for Marshawn Lynch's 25-yard run in the second quarter on Sunday. He played in just two snaps in Mexico City after missing the previous week's game in Denver due to a shoulder injury.
Without Marsh the Patriots remain thin at defensive end. In order to help bolster that spot, the corresponding move the Patriots made to fill the open spot on their 53-man roster was to sign defensive lineman Eric Lee off of the Bills practice squad.
Lee entered the league with the Texans last season as an undrafted rookie out of South Florida. Listed at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, Lee has bounced on and off of the Bills practice squad this season since being released by the Texans before this season.
The Patriots got a good look at Lee during joint practices last summer with the Texans at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. In the preseason game with the Texans that week, Lee played 40 snaps and according to Pro Football Focus he had two quarterback hurries. The Patriots have a history of snagging players they've practiced against, and with Lee, that trend continues.
Bill Belichick sounded less than enthused about traveling to Mexico to play a game. And his line about being "fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there," didn't exactly sit well with some folks south of the border.
“Personally, I wouldn’t be in any big rush to do it again,” Belichick said on his weekly appearance on WEEI's "Dale and Holley with Keefe" show Monday. “Players did a great job dealing with all the challenges that we had to deal with. I think we’re fortunate there was no volcano eruptions, earthquakes or anything else while we were down there. I mean you have two NFL franchises in an area that I don’t know how stable the geological plates that were below us [were], but nothing happened so that was good.”
Pancho Vera of ESPN Mexico took exception to Belichick's comment on Twitter, which, translated, called out the "ignorance of the genius of the NFL." More than 200 people were killed after a quake centered near Mexico City struck in September.
Other Twitter users said, using Belichick's reasoning, they wondered if they'd be fortunate not to be killed or wounded in a mass shooting if they were to travel to the US:
Translated, the tweets read "I also have luck in Las Vegas I was not in a shooting" and "But you are right, I apply the same when I go to the U.S. and say I was fortunate I was not in some crazy shootout."