The New England Patriots have made a move that will bolster their defensive tackle depth and serve to improve their shaky run defense.
For the second year in a row, in the minutes before the trade deadline, the New England Patriots pulled off a trade for a veteran defensive player at a position of serious need. As you've probably heard by now, the Patriots have acquired defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga and a sixth round pick from the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for a fifth round draft choice. All of the picks are for 2014.
Sopoaga, 32, was in his first year with the Eagles after signing a three year deal with the team back in March. That contract is worth a total of $11 million with 3.75 million guaranteed. He has base salaries of $3.75 and $3.5 million in 2014 and 2015 – salaries that he may likely never see.
So what are the Patriots getting in him?
Sopoaga is a true nose tackle in the build of a Vince Wilfork or Casey Hampton at 6’2” and 330lbs. He’s started seven of eight games for the Eagles this season and has played 242 snaps and recorded ten tackles. Sopoaga played the first nine years of his career with the 49ers, where he was a mainstay along the defensive line.
While he hasn't graded out positively on ProFootballFocus.com the last two seasons, his two-gap ability will help the Patriots immensely. With Vince Wilfork on injured reserve and Tommy Kelly nursing a knee injury of his own, the Patriots have turned to two rookie defensive tackles, Chris Jones and Joe Vellano, to play the vast majority of the snaps at defensive tackles. Both have good quickness and can shed blocks, but are not the type to eat up multiple blockers. Sopoaga will likely be thrown straight into the starting line-up to play first and second down snaps from the get-go. He’s not going to put up big numbers or show up as a pass rusher, but if he can simply free up the linebackers, he will be a very valuable pick up.
And so for the second straight year, the Patriots have pulled off a last minute deal at the trade deadline. In 2012, they picked up Aqib Talib because he addressed a serious need at defensive back. Sopoaga fits a similar bill, as the Patriots simply cannot continue to get bullied up the middle by second-rate running attacks. And so if Sopoaga can provide anywhere close to the impact that Talib has for this defense, the Patriots and their fans will be delighted.