And as expected, Eagles traded DT Isaac Sopoaga and a pick to the Patriots for a higher pick.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) October 29, 2013
Sopoaga is in his 10th NFL season, but his first with the Eagles. He previously spent nine years as both a nose-tackle and defensive-tackle with the San Francisco 49ers. In 133 total games, he has 227 combine tackles, 7.5 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. He has been playing limited downs with the Eagles after he signed a three-year, $12 million dollar contract with them this summer. According to Andrew Brandt, the Patriots will pay Sopoaga $529,000 this season. In 2014 and 2015, he has two nonguaranteed years valued at $3.75 and $3.5 million.
This deal provides the Patriots with much needed depth on the interior of the defensive line. With Vince Wilfork out for the year, and Tommy Kelly hampered by a knee injury, the Patriots have relied on rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones. Even though they have done a fine job, Sopoaga should immediately leapfrog them on the depth chart, playing nose-tackle on early downs.
The Patriots have recently made a relatively quiet shift towards the 3-4, and I believe this deal solidifies that evolution. This move suggests that Rob Ninkovich will play more as an outside linebacker, and we'll see either Chris Jones, Andre Carter, or Joe Vellano playing at defensive end opposite of Chandler Jones.
It's important to remember that it's unlikely to see Sopoaga on third-downs. He has been playing exclusively on base-downs (first and second down) for the past few years. On dime situations, he will probably substitute out, much like did Vince Wilfork did years ago.
This deal is a no-risk, high-reward deal for the New England Patriots. Isaac Sopoaga will not fill Vince Wilfork's shoes, but he at least provides them with a true nose tackle. He should at least solidify the run-defense, and his presence will therefore makes other players better. Dropping from the fifth-round to the sixth-round in the 2014 Draft makes very little difference for the Patriots. To acquire a potential impact player for such a low price is a no-brainer.
I'm also looking forward to seeing how different the 3-4 base-defense looks. I think we'll mostly see Rob Ninkovich on a two-point stance, but it's possible Chandler Jones stands up more often. This deal certainly allows the Patriots to have more flexibility, which should only help them.