When Jabaal Sheard signed with the New England Patriots last week, the edge-rusher got to where he thought he was heading all along in the 2011 draft.
“I visited there coming into my rookie year and I thought I was going to be drafted there honestly coming out as a rookie,” the 26-year-old Sheard said on a conference call with the media Friday.
Sheard met with the Patriots once again when free agency opened last week, and became a member of the team on two-year, $11 million deal soon after. But the 6-foot-3, 264-pound ex-Cleveland Brown was very close to becoming one four years prior.
Four picks separated close from reality.
New England went on to select Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling 33rd overall, and Cleveland went on to select the Pittsburgh defensive end 37th overall. Dowling went on to spend two seasons with the Patriots, playing in nine games, and Sheard went on to spend four seasons with the Browns, playing in 61.
Yet now, Sheard’s less than six months away from playing in his first official one for New England. That opportunity was one he didn’t want to pass on.
This time, neither did the Patriots.
“I got a second shot at it, meeting with the coaches again, the same coaches,” added Sheard.
Continuity proved important for the free agent, who played under three different head coaches for the Browns since entering the league. And after going a combined 20-44 over that span, so did winning.
“Coming from a program where I was seeing new coaches every year, it’s kind of some consistency there. I think that was huge and just the fact that guys that have been doing it a while, they know how to win. I want to be a part of that.”
Sheard recorded 190 tackles, 23 sacks and seven forced fumbles over his tenure with the Browns, serving as a 4-3 end and 3-4 outside linebacker while staffs and schemes changed hands. He doesn’t know exactly what kind of role he will serve over his tenure with the Patriots, but he believes he will serve one under the same hands.
“I envision that they have some great plan for me, just knowing the system that they run,” Sheard said. “I’ve been around three different systems in my last three years so I’m ready for whatever. I’m always ready to embrace something new and something different and I’m up for the challenge, whatever it is.”
In Sheard’s case, something new and different also happens to be familiar.