BOSTON (CBS) — The depth along the Patriots’ defensive line was dealt a potentially big blow on Friday, with several reports saying rookie defensive end Derek Rivers could miss a significant chunk of time with a knee injury he suffered in this week’s joint practices with the Houston Texans.

It leaves the Patriots in a bit of a pickle in terms of their pass rushers, which was one of the few areas of concern on their otherwise stacked roster. With Rob Ninkovich’s retirement shortly after training camp began, it left Trey Flowers as New England’s primary pass rusher. There are other players on the roster who can get after the quarterback, like linebacker Dont’a Hightower, but the Patriots’ depth on the defensive line is starting to get more than a little concerning.

There are other in-house options to step up and help, such as linebackers Jonathan Freeny, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin and Harvey Langi, which is the likely route for Bill Belichick. The head coach preaches versatility, and adding “able to get after the quarterback” to one’s resume is a sure way to make the roster.

But if Belichick wants to go outside the organization, here are three options:

Dwight Freeney

Dwight Freeney (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The 15-year veteran has had a solid career at getting to the quarterback with 122.5 sacks to his name. He played in 15 games last season for the Falcons (starting just one) and recorded three sacks as a sub-rusher.

Belichick is a big fan of the 37-year-old after watching him pester Tom Brady during his 11 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. It’s fair to question what Freeney has left in the tank at the age of 37, but he wouldn’t be asked to carry the load and just provide a little assistance, as he did with Atlanta last season. He’d also be a great voice for New England’s younger players on the roster.

Jared Odrick

Jared Odrick (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

The Patriots brought the 29-year-old in for a visit over the offseason and seemed interested in signing him, but Odrick is still without a job. That could mean he’s still banged up after his 2016 season ended after Week 11 with a trip to IR thanks to a shoulder injury, but Belichick could pick up the phone again if he wants a little outside help along the line. It would be a low-risk signing, one that could pay big dividends in the end.

Paul Kruger

Paul Kruger (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

The 31-year-old can cause nightmares for opposing quarterbacks, with 35 sacks over his eight-year career. He only racked up 1.5 sacks for the New Orleans Saints last season, but he could be a good fit with the Patriots.


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