The entertainment value of the NFL has gone much further than the regular season and playoffs. It’s year-long, from free agency, to the NFL combine, to the NFL draft, to OTAs, to training camp . . . the whole nine yards.

The Patriots are obviously no exception to this rule. If anything, they are the rule. Tom Brady can’t sneeze in public without that becoming a story.

But this Patriots offseason was refreshing from last year’s in that it wasn’t just about Deflategate (though of course we’re still dealing with that).

The Patriots actually made a number of big moves that should have fans excited for what should be another playoff-bound season, whether or not Brady starts the first four games.

And one particular position that will be very interesting to watch is the defensive line.

The Patriots shook things up when they shipped defensive end Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals. In doing so, they parted ways with their sack leader, who had 12.5 last season.

But New England wasn’t just planning on subtracting. When free agency came around, they filled some voids with the additions of DT Terrance Knighton and DE Chris Long. 

Those relatively big-name signings aren’t too common in New England. But Knighton and Long along with expected roster mainstays Jabaal Sheard, Alan Branch, Rob Ninkovich, Geneo Grissom, and Trey Flowers make up quite a defensive front heading into the season.

Much of the talk surrounding the Patriots has been about their quarterback situation, but opposing quarterbacks might have more issues.

Ninkovich, a captain on last year’s team, is a proven leader and one that understands what it will take for the unit to jell before the season.

“I think everyone really just dives right in,” Ninkovich recently told reporters. “It really starts with the foundation, so right now it’s working hard, coming in, lifting, running, building a base. As you do that you get to know everybody.”

The Patriots are holding OTAs as well as mandatory mini-camp over the next few weeks. It’s then that guys like Knighton and Long will get their first real taste of Patriots football.

But before those even got underway, Ninkovich reached out to Long and the two have already hit it off.

“Chris is a great guy,” Ninkovich said. “He’s excited to be here and to just jump into the Patriot way. I know previous location was tough for him, so I just said to him, ‘Hey man, you come here and get to work and we’ll start winning football games.’”