At some point, other NFL talent evaluators will catch up with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, but it’s certainly not happening quickly enough.
The way to acquire affordable talent in the NFL is through trades. The New England Patriots head coach knows this, but no one else seems to.
The Patriots moved down eight spots in the 2017 NFL Draft and picked up one year of a proven NFL pass rusher when they reportedly acquired defensive end Kony Ealy from the Panthers. The Patriots went from the 64th selection to the 72nd and filled a major need on their defensive line.
This comes two days after the Patriots acquired tight end Dwayne Allen by swapping fourth- and sixth-round picks with the Indianapolis Colts.
Heading into the offseason, the Patriots had just Trey Flowers, Rob Ninkovich and Geneo Grissom at defensive end. You could possibly throw Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin into the mix, as well, but both players primarily played linebacker in 2016.
Ealy could potentially start over Ninkovich at left defensive end in 2017, though it’s unlikely. If he doesn’t, he could be used as a third or fourth rotational pass rusher to give Flowers and Ninkovich some much-needed reps off. The Patriots likely also will draft or sign another defensive end to complete the rotation.
Let’s not pretend the Patriots are acquiring a superstar in Ealy, but they are picking up a player with possible untapped potential. This is the same player who could have won the Super Bowl 50 MVP after he recorded three sacks, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
He’s 6-foot-4, 275 pounds and ran a 4.69-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in 2014 when coming out of Missouri as a future second-round pick. He ran a blazing 6.83-second 3-cone drill with a 4.45-second short shuttle, 10-foot broad jump and 32-inch vertical leap.
Ealy is just 25 years old and will count just $903,660 against the Patriots’ salary cap in 2017. That’s chump change compared to the deals other players are signing as free agents in the new league year. Would you rather have Ealy for $900,000 or Courtney Upshaw at $1.15 million? Or Cornelius Washington for $6 million over two years? Or Charles Johnson at $8 million over two years? Or Jack Crawford at $10.3 million over three years? Or Andre Branch at $24 million over three years?
Is it even close?
Not all trades work out for the Patriots, but they have a way of finding useful players at deep values that cost pennies through these deals. Ealy is no guarantee to work out. But for the price? The deal was a no-brainer.
Thumbnail photo via Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports Images
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