With his future still uncertain at last month's spring game, Pierre Woods told GoBlueWolverine, “If I go to a 4-3 team I’ll play defensive end, if I go to a 3-4 team, I’ll play outside linebacker.” He now knows his fate. Woods will play outside linebacker in New England’s 3-4 defense. The team lacks great depth and may open up a spot on the practice squad for Woods to develop his great natural ability.
The roster shapes as follows. Outside linebackers Roosevelt Colvin and Tully Banta-Cain are roster locks, as is Mike Vrabel. The only other listed outside linebacker that has NFL experience is Eric Alexander. Alexander was bounced around on the practice squad, cut, then signed before seeing only limited special teams work in one game. Other than Alexander, Woods will compete with sixth round draft pick Jeremy Mincey, a coverted defensive end from Florida and Corey Mays from Notre Dame.
Mincey will have a lot to overcome moving to a new position but Head Coach Bill Belichick likes the former Gator. Mays played middle linebacker at Notre Dame and may fit better there in New England’s scheme. His strongest asset is the ability to contribute on special teams. The team also signed Alabama middle linebacker Freddie Roach and while a move to outside linebacker is possible, he will likely stay on the inside.
A lot will hinge on how other position battles shake out. Monty Beisel, a free agent pickup last year, could move to outside linebacker as could 2005 draft pick Ryan Claridge. Either one of these moves would severely dampen an open roster spot for an undrafted free agent.
The bottom line for Woods his best chance is to latch as on with the practice squad. He had trouble picking up Michigan’s 3-4 scheme and will need time to adjust to New England’s defense. He does have experience with the alignment, though, and that should give him a small advantage over a player like Jeremy Mincey.
Woods could make the active roster if he shows he can be a difference maker on special teams. New England has traditionally kept a linebacker or two around to help on special teams such as 11 year veteran Larry Izzo.
Like some of his former Michigan teammates, Lentz is entering a situation where he can latch on with a practice squad. Starters Chris Snee, David Diehl, and veteran backup Rich Seubert are considered the locks of the group. Second-year man Julius Franklin was an undrafted free agent in 2005 and will be in for camp. The team also signed undrafted free agent Tony Tella from the University of Miami. Tella is more of a finesse player and will likely struggle to anchor against NFL defensive tackles and is a long term project. He'll be a top candidate for the practice squad.
The good news for Lentz is the Giants and Head Coach Tom Coughlin are known for their commitment to the run, which just happens to be where the former Wolverine is at his best.
One issue that could dampen Lentz's chances is the Giants line is pretty interchangeable. Several players could move over from center or tackle to take on the guard spot if needed, including Lewis Kelly and Na’Shan Goddard. If Lentz can outperform Julius Franklin and Tony Tella in camp, he could ride out the season with the team in some fashion.
Perhaps the Michigan free agent with the toughest road is Adam Stenavich. The Panthers are content with starting him out at tackle; his college position. Carolina has four “roster locks” at tackle in starters Jordan Gross and Travelle Wharton along with backups Dave Kadela and Todd Fordham. Stenavich will also have to compete with free agent Jared Peck, sixth round draft pick Rashad Butler (Miami Fl.) and undrafted rookie Albert Toeaina of Tennessee.
Like all undrafted free agents, Stenavich's main goal should be staying with the team in some fashion… even if that means getting an invite to the practice squad. Stenavich would be best served if he moved to guard where he has the most upside. A year of development could really polish his game. If he is allowed to develop at one of the inside positions, he could contribute on an active roster down the line.