In the lead-up to training camp, we're inspecting the Patriots roster position by position. Today, an examination of the defensive line.
Locks: Lawrence Guy; Adam Butler; Beau Allen
Bubble: Byron Cowart; Deatrich Wise
In the Mix: Nick Thurman; Bill Murray; Nick Coe; Courtney Wallace
ANALYSIS: The Patriots retained restricted free agent Adam Butler with a second-round designation while signing veteran Beau Allen to replace the departed Danny Shelton. Lawrence Guy remains the key cog of this group, making the Patriots All-Decade team. Butler specializes as an interior pass rusher but has made significant improvement on early downs since joining the team in 2017 as an undrafted rookie.
But after Guy and Butler there's much uncertainty. Deatrich Wise is a solid role player but continues to search for his fit within the Patriots scheme, while Byron Cowart showed some preseason flashes but was mostly a reserve in his rookie season. Cowart might be the biggest x-factor of this group. Allen can be an effective role player at nose tackle but can he improve on what Shelton did last season? It still seems like one more contributor needs to emerge.
Nick Thurman spent last season on the Patriots practice squad and that could give him an edge in competing against three rookie free agents – Bill Murray, Nick Coe and Courtney Wallace -- all of whom will have every opportunity to secure a roster spot. Murray blocked 10 kicks in college and is an intriguing player to watch.
This defensive line has solid passing-down pieces, but got run over by the Ravens and Titans last season in two big matchups which included the season-ending loss in the Wild Card round. They're not the deepest group after Guy and Butler and could benefit if a rotational player were to emerge, especially if they can help in the run-stopping department while taking some heat off of Guy and Allen.