On March 19, Patriots nose tackle Danny Shelton became an ex-Patriot. The 6-foot-2, 345-pound 26-year-old signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the Detroit Lions that included $4 million guaranteed.
On March 20, the Patriots signed their new Danny Shelton -- 6-foot-3, 327-pound, 28-year-old Beau Allen -- to a two-year, $7 million contract with $2.75 million guaranteed. Incentives can bring Allen to $8 million.
Does this seem like a one-for-one swap of appliance-sized humans who’ll be asked to consume space, muck up running games and give a little interior pass-rush push?
Is that what it really is?
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There’s no need to oversell the impact Allen is going to have for the Patriots. Every guy they add doesn’t have to be projected as a possible game-altering force opposing coordinators will have to contend with.
Shelton was fine in his role most of the time – especially in 2019. Allen projects to also be … fine.
“He’s an overachiever,” said Tampa Bay Times writer Rick Stroud, who covered Allen while he was with the Buccaneers. “That’s what he’s been his whole career. He was a seventh-round pick out of the University of Wisconsin and he’s a big-bodied guy who's played a lot of football at a pretty high level.”
Allen, like the other “new guys” we’ve dug into this week – Damiere Byrd and Adrian Phillips – had to scrap to get where he’s at. He was a role-playing defensive tackle with the Eagles from 2014 to 2017 then joined the Bucs on a three-year deal after winning the Super Bowl with Philly. The idea was to pair him with Bucs mainstay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
But Tampa veered a bit, adding Vita Vea with the 12th overall pick in the 2018 draft. They added Ndamukong Suh last spring. Suddenly, there were two highly-talented and fairly expensive players joining Allen. And he was too pricey for a bit player. Tampa illustrated that last year when they asked him to take a $1 million pay cut and he agreed to delete the final year of his deal.
“(Allen’s) snaps went way down to like 17 percent,” said Stroud. “He was a rotational guy, but the league needs guys like Beau Allen. He can play in a 3-4 (defense), he can play in 4-3 and he can play anywhere from 0 (directly over the center) to three-technique (outside shoulder of the guard).
“The Bucs were No. 1 against the run last year and a big reason for that is he holds that point of attack,” Stroud added. “Other guys may make the tackle, he may not be a big stat guy but he understands the game and he can be a good, solid player.”
Outstanding as their defense was for the balance of the season, the Patriots were ushered from the playoffs almost single-handedly by Derrick Henry, who ran 34 times for 182 yards in the Wild Card Round at Gillette.
The rushing stats say they were effective stopping the run, allowed 95.5 yards per game on the ground (6th in the NFL). But there were outbursts like Tennessee’s, Baltimore’s (210 yards rushing), Cincinnati (164), Washington (145) and Buffalo (135).
The Patriots have had a fair amount of front-seven turnover the past two years, losing players like Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, Trey Flowers, Shelton and Malcom Brown.
They still have two very good DTs who are under-appreciated – Lawrence Guy and Danny Shelton – and John Simon may be one of the best athletes on the defense but the loss of Shelton had to be addressed.
Allen represents that. And Stroud said he’s a good add in other ways as well.
“Beau Allen is 300-something pounds,” said Stroud. “He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro so that’s how tough he is. That’s what he does in the offseason. He simply couldn’t get on the field (because of Vea and Suh) but when you lead the NFL in stopping the run, that says something.”