The New England Patriots were in search of a big body to anchor their defensive line.
The acquisition of Danny Shelton from the Cleveland Browns in March appeared to fit the bill, although the Patriots think a slimmed-down Shelton would be a much better fit.
A former first-round pick (No. 12 overall) of the Browns in 2015, Shelton is generously listed at 6-foot-2, 335 pounds. However, he acknowledged that he weighs much more and is working to get back down to 335 for the upcoming season.
“That’s what I’m more focusing on,” Shelton told NBC Sports Boston, “and that’s what I like about the change is that my body will be more trained for the endurance and trained for fourth quarter, overtime.”
Shelton started 44 of 46 games during his three seasons in Cleveland, playing at both nose tackle and defensive tackle. He said he’s already seeing the benefits of New England’s rigorous conditioning program.
“My body’s adjusting to all the running, man,” said Shelton. “It’s pretty crazy. But I like it. … I’ve only been on one team and I’ve only done one offseason program. Now that I’m here, it’s pretty cool to change it up a bit and just watch my body change.”
The Patriots had a need at defensive tackle after declining to pick up the contract option on Alan Branch. The cost was relatively cheap — a third-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft in exchange for Shelton and a fifth-rounder this year.
Shelton, who started all 16 games in 2016 and recorded a career-high 59 tackles and 1.5 sacks, knows he still faces an uphill climb — literally. Part of New England’s conditioning program involves running hills behind the practice field.
“Just getting my mind ready for it,” said Shelton, who had 34 tackles in 14 contests (13 starts) last season. “We haven’t gotten to that part. It is deceiving. It doesn’t look too tough. But just hearing from some of the guys, it’s not something you want to mess with.”