The Patriots made waves yesterday when they took part in two trades to acquire defensive linemen. They shipped away cornerback Justin Green to the Siberian-esque purgatory of Dallas in exchange for Ben Bass, while they flipped a conditional 7th round pick to actual Siberia for Green Bay's Jerel Worthy.
Both are important moves, although neither players are locks to make the team. Let's break them down.
First, the Patriots were able to trade Green away because 1) he wasn't going to make the team with all of the depth, as well as the emergence of Malcolm Butler; 2) he showed basic competence when called on last season, and even covered the Broncos Demaryius Thomas; 3) the Cowboys are this close to pulling random fans out of the bleachers to play defensive back, especially due to the latest suspension for Orlando Scandrick.
In exchange, the Patriots pick up 3-4 defensive end Ben Bass (although the Cowboys always rushed DeMarcus Ware, so Bass was really a 4-3 defensive tackle, from the 5-tech position). Bass has, surprise surprise, a major issue with injuries and hasn't been able to practice this off-season. Still, when he was healthy prior to the 2013 season, the 6'5, 295 lbs lineman flashed potential as a backfield disruptor.
Bass is a walking injury who, like Green, will be a longshot to make the roster. This is merely a swap of back-end players to teams that need depth, and have excessive depth, at matching positions. Still, the recent injuries to Chris Jones and Sealver Siliga mean there's plenty of camp snaps to make an impressions; he just has to get on the field and recover from his current nagging hamstring injury.
The trade with the Green Bay Packers is slightly more nuanced. The Patriots are trading a conditional 7th round pick; Worthy has to make the Patriots in order for the Packers to receive the 7th round pick. To add another wrench, the Patriots don't have a 2015 7th round pick due to their trade for former Rams receiver Greg Salas, which means that the Patriots possibly gave away a 2016 7th round pick for Worthy. Worthy has to pass a team physical for the trade to be valid.
Worthy is notable as he was a 2012 2nd round pick who is a clearly defined 3-tech defensive tackle, who was poorly miscast as a 3-4 defensive end. His college reviews stated he was incredible against single blockers, but struggled when double teamed, so his fit was clearly a question. He hasn't been able to flash in the wrong system and a change of scenary would do him some good.
Like Bass, Worthy has had poor luck with injuries. He tore his ACL on December 30th, 2012 as a rookie. He started the 2013 campaign on the PUP list and wasn't activated until Week 12. It's important to note that the only game the Packers gave Worthy with a full year to recover was a playoff game against the 49ers, and he only played two games during the regular season (14 snaps for the whole year). His best football could still be ahead of him.
NEPatriotsDraft's Jason Cappell has noted that this acquisition is similar in impact as last year's pick-up of LeGarrette Blount. It's a low risk move that could bear some serious fruits. Worthy is currently sitting out due to a back injury working out in February, which required surgery in April. His recovery timeline was expected to be two months, although he has been on the Packers PUP list throughout camp.
Don't expect either of these players to make the team. However, if you think of these moves as a response to the injuries to Jones and Siliga, you have to note that these players aren't healthy either; the Patriots are clearly making these moves with the future in mind, and not as band-aids.
Both offer ability a 3-tech and both (technically) have the flexibility to kick into the 5-tech role, giving the team more depth in all defensive sets. Bill Belichick thinks they could both play a role at some point. Let's see how they perform if and when they finally get on the field.