After eight productive seasons in New England, the former LSU star is slow-playing his navigation through the waters of free agency, focusing not just on which team will pay him the most, but how a team specifically plans to use him.
Green has not said he plans to leave the Patriots, or even that he wants to. But like other free agents, he has said that finances are balanced by his role with his future team.
The reason for the Green-to-Dallas speculation is that he has thrived in New England's 3-4 defense, where he has been used as an inside pass rusher in nickel situations. Like the Patriots, Dallas runs a 3-4 defense, and with the anticipation that at least one of three defensive ends — Marcus Spears, Jason Hatcher or Stephen Bowen — could leave via free agency, Green has been suggested as a possible replacement.
It's an understandable idea, but it doesn't make a lot of sense.
Green can perform many of the same roles as Spears, Hatcher and Bowen, as there are a lot of similarities between the defensive philosophies and schemes used by each team. But the idea that he wants to slide inside to rush the passer in nickel situations is where the idea of him joining the Cowboys jumps the tracks.
Green is an able pass rusher. Over eight seasons, he has 28 sacks, including a career-high 7.5 in 2006, and at 6-3, 285, he has the size to play either defensive end or at the nose tackle spot, and make no mistake, this is not a spare part looking for a job — in eight seasons, he has six division championships, three conference titles and a pair of Super Bowl rings. He also joins running back Kevin Faulk, offensive lineman Matt Light and some guy named Tom Brady as the only Patriots who entered the 2009 season with more 100 games played for New England.
But again, the key is in the role he wants to play. The Patriots mix in some 4-3 with their standard 3-4 defense, and when he slides in from the end to one of the interior defensive tackle positions, Green's quickness allows him to excel as a pass rusher. But the Cowboys play almost exclusively in a 3-4 alignment, and especially in nickel (passing) situations, Green wouldn't be playing inside at nose tackle. That position is the domain of über-athletic Jay Ratliff, the Cowboys' Pro Bowler who might be the quickest interior lineman in the entire NFL.
There's no question Green could play the position, and could be invaluable as a fourth lineman who could back up at defensive end or inside at nose tackle. But Green is looking for a raise, and if he is going to remain a backup, it likely would be in New England, where he knows the system, the coaches and the players.
If Dallas is going to spend on defensive linemen, it makes more sense that they would re-sign some combination of Spears, Hatcher and Bowen, or maybe even all three. Just as Green has familiarity in New England, those three know the players, coaches and defensive system in Dallas, so they wouldn't need time to learn.
In each case, it makes more sense for the players to stay where they are.
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