Just two days into the new league year, the Patriots have already made three moves, and the latest happens to be trading a second-round pick to the Panthers for defensive end Kony Ealy and a third-round pick, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. This trade moves New England from their 64th pick to Carolina’s 72nd pick, the two teams being so close to each other in the draft.
This move isn’t all that shocking from either side, when you really look at it. Panthers HC Ron Rivera made it known that they wanted to “improve the pass rush” after their disappointing 2016 season, and it was evident that Ealy just wasn’t going to fit that blueprint, for whatever reason. Plus, Carolina recently adding Julius Peppers, Charles Johnson and re-signing their 2016 sack leader Mario Addison to their squad almost immediately made Ealy expendable once those moves were made.
From the Patriots’ perspective, this makes all too much sense. For starters, the Patriots are not going to be bringing back Chris Long next season, plus Jabaal Sheard is signing with the Colts. With both of those defensive linemen are gone, that leaves New England with Trey Flowers, the aging Rob Ninkovich, and Geneo Grissom. It was imminent that the Pats were going to get some experience back on that defensive line sooner or later, as they are most likely going to draft a guy or two in April, as well. I’d assume that Ealy is just the first domino to fall as it goes for New England’s D-line this offseason.
This is a great deal again for the Pats because they only gave up eight spots in the draft to get this guy, literally. They traded just their second-rounder for Carolina’s third-rounder, which are just a measly eight picks away from each other. This is what I like to call a classic case of Bill Belichick armed robbery. Stealing a young, full of upside edge rusher for 10 spots early on in the draft is as Belichick as it gets. Teams are really still that stupid, huh?
As it goes for the player himself, Ealy is a former second-round pick out of Missouri, weighing in at 275 pounds, standing 6’4” and is just 25 years old. You may recall that he had an absolute monster of a game back in Super Bowl 50. Ealy forced a fumble, recovered a fumble, recorded three sacks, four tackles and an interception, all while playing only 23 defensive snaps in his breakout game against the Broncos. He would have easily been named MVP of the game, if the Panthers had won.
Ealy has flashed his potential to be a big-time pass rusher in the National Football League with just three pro seasons under his belt. In those three years, he’s recorded 14 sacks and 43 tackles, while playing in 47 games and starting 15 of them. His inconsistency is notable, not making too much noise in 2014 and ‘16 yet having a hell of a year in 2015, but his age and potential helps cancel some of that out. Ealy possesses the tools to become a legit pass rushing threat, and already has that playmaking ability. If he’s utilized correctly, takes his time in New England seriously and stays healthy, he could do just that.
This is the perfect time for Ealy to show what he’s got, as he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract with a cap hit at about $1.128 million. There is really no better place for a young guy like him looking to make his mark on the league and haul in some dough than Foxboro. Unless he’s a headcase, a year under Bill Belichick can obviously help him work out those kinks and make good money probably elsewhere, barring injuries for the Pats and/or an incredible season out of the kid.
In the next year, Matty P and Belichick will try, and probably succeed, in getting anything and everything out of Ealy that the Panthers couldn’t/wouldn’t. Carolina currently have a jam at defensive end, mainly filled with elder players, so it’s kind of odd that they traded away their youngest guy away for nothing. But, hey, you do you. Belichick the GM wins yet another trade. Shocking, I know. At a time in which his team needs a player like this, Bill easily finds the perfect match within hours and tricks yet another team into making a deal like so happen. Hold onto your butts, people. The Patriots are going for six titles, and they’re not hiding it.