Meet The New Patriots: Dane Fletcher

New England went into the offseason with depth issues at linebacker. They dealt with the issue by signing former Patriots Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher, but Spikes off-the-field issues cost him his job. Now it's time to see if Fletcher can step up in this time of need.

The injury bug struck the Patriots linebacking core in 2014, and the team is still feeling the effects heading into the 2014 training camp. Jerod Mayo should be good to go, but after missing most of the last two seasons, there is no guarantee that Mayo will be able to stay on the field. Dont'a Hightower is also coming off a major shoulder injury in 2014, an injury that he played with and didn't have repaired until February. The Patriots expect Hightower to be back for the start of the regular season, but shoulders take a long time to rehab and Bill Belichick knew he would have to be prepared should Hightower not be ready to go. Belichick likes players that he knows, and former Patriots Dane Fletcher was available, so they went out and signed him.

Fletcher, who stands at 6'2, 244 pounds, attended Montana State and will be entering his sixth season in the NFL. Fletcher has appeared in 54 total games, starting ten. During his four seasons in New England, Fletcher totaled 51 solo tackles, 30 assisted tackles, four sacks, one interception, two passes defended, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. He missed the entire 2012 season when he tore a knee ligament during a preseason game. Fletcher wasn't brought back after the 2013 season and went to Tampa Bay in 2014. He started four games, appeared in all 16 and finished the year with 28 solo tackles, 13 assisted tackles, one pass defended, and 0.5 sacks. It was the first time that Fletcher played in all 16 games and he also had his best statistical season to date.

Fletcher is going to get a chance to contribute and be part of a linebacker rotation that is going to need help from everyone in 2015. Assuming he stays healthy, he should play in every game and he also might pick up a few starts. Coming back to New England is a smart move for Fletcher because he already knows the system and he has considerably more talent around him than he did in Tampa Bay. Bill Belichick knows what he is getting with Fletcher- a strong spot-starter that can be an excellent rotational linebacker who is in his athletic prime.

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