The New England Patriots quickly found a replacement for veteran Alan Branch, acquiring defensive tackle Danny Shelton from the Cleveland Browns via trade. According to Field Yates and Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Patriots will send a 2019 third-round selection to the Browns for the 24-year-old Shelton and a 2018 fifth-round pick. A 12th overall pick by the Browns in 2015 out of Washington, Shelton tallied 128 tackles, 1.5 sacks and one pass breakup in 46 career outings with Cleveland.

Last season, he recorded 33 tackles and one pass breakup in 14 games, where he showed his ability against the run.

Shelton will join Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and Vincent Valentine on the Patriots’ defensive tackle depth chart. The Patriots will take on Shelton’s $2 million salary in 2018 and have to decide if they will pick up his 2019 option worth $7 million. With Shelton’s deal, the Browns have released all of their seven first-round draft picks from 2012-15. The trade gives Shelton new scenery under head coach Bill Belichick that will help him re-establish his career.

Shelton a better option than Alan Branch

Doug Kyed of said that Shelton is a younger and better version of the 33-year-old defensive tackle Alan Branch, who was recently released by the Patriots. Branch became a free agent after the Patriots declined to pick up the 2018 team option on his contract.

The move was expected since Branch’s contract would have taken $4.55 million out of the team’s salary cap for 2018. Branch suited up for 12 regular-season games with the Patriots, but he was left out in the postseason as he was overtaken in the depth chart by veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois. In his four-year stint with the Patriots, Branch tallied 74 tackles, 25 sacks, six pass breakups and two forced fumbles.

Branch and Jean Francois are now both free agents.

Patriots must pursue Tyrann Mathieu

According to Ryan Wilson of CBS Sports, the Patriots must pursue star safety Tyrann Mathieu if they want to boost their defense. Mathieu signed a five-year, $62.5 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals, but recently he was asked to take a pay cut.

With Mathieu not receptive to the pay-cut idea, the Cardinals might make a move before March 16, when his $18.8 million salary becomes guaranteed. Wilson said Mathieu would be a perfect fit in New England, as he is also capable of playing cornerback and inside linebacker in sub-packages.