The New England Patriots traded a 6th round pick to the Chicago Bears for linebacker Jon Bostic. The trade is still pending Bostic passing a physical. Bostic was a 2nd round pick in 2013 out of the University of Florida.
The Patriots already have their starting two linebackers in Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower. Jerod Mayo is the best linebacker to have coming off the bench. Jonathan Freeney and Dekoda Watson are core special teams players. What will Bostic add to this defense? Why was this trade initiated?
The Bears are going through a rebuilding process
The 0-3 Bears are under new leadership and the current coaching staff is trying to figure out which players they want to carry forward, and which ones they want to ship away. Bostic dealt with injuries over the offseason so he was unable to practice in the team's new 3-4 defense after spending time as the middle linebacker in the prior regime's 4-3 defense.
This is exactly the same reason why the Titans were willing and able to send away Akeem Ayers for cheap during the 2014 season. Ayers wasn't a fit, the Patriots traded away almost nothing from a draft perspective to acquire him, and Ayers was a key player in the New England Super Bowl run. Bad teams are willing to get rid of players that won't have a role on their team in order to receiver draft capital.
The price was fantastic and the Patriots won't lose anything
The Patriots traded away a 6th round pick, which Bill Belichick historically treats as capital to obtain preferred free agents in the draft. In the past 10 seasons, the Patriots have selected in the 6th round a whopping 18 times. The fruit?
2006: DT LeKevin Smith is active for 31 games between 2006 and 2008 and collects 13 tackles on defense.
2007: DB Mike Richardson is active for 10 games in 2008 and collects 15 tackles on defense.
2009: DT Myron Pryor is active for 24 games between 2009 and 2011 with 2 starts, and picks up 20 tackles and 1 sack. LS Jake Ingram snapped for a 24 games between 2009 and 2010 before the Patriots moved on.
2012: DB Nate Ebner is active for 42 games between 2012 and 2015 and picks up 11 tackles on defense.
2014: DL Zach Moore is active for 8 games in 2014 and assists on 4 tackles and half a sack.
Six players (33%) have worked out for even the smallest amount of time. Not the most rewarding of draft positions. The 6th round rarely pans out, and the Patriots just picked up a former 2nd round pick that was successful one year ago.
The 6th and 7th rounds are treated spaghetti style where more picks are more valuable. But if you can use one of these picks on a proven player, you make that trade every time.
The Patriots will still have picks in the 6th round
The Patriots are projected to pick up 2016 compensatory picks in the 3rd round, from Darrelle Revis, and three picks in the 6th round, from Vince Wilfork, Shane Vereen, and mid-season trade inspiration Akeem Ayers.
So even if New England moves their 6th round pick, they'll still have three untradeable draft picks to use in the same general draft frame.
Oh, and they have the Texans pick after sending a 5th to Houston for Keshawn Martin and a 6th.
Bostic is extremely versatile and will play
Bostic was a cornerback and safety in high school, he plays every linebacker spot, and he's been miscast with the Bears as they transition to a 3-4 defense. The 6'1, 245 lbs linebacker was 2nd on the 2014 Chicago Bears in tackles, so he's able to produce on the field.
He has played all three linebacker spots and can back up every position, while offering value on special teams. The Patriots linebackers have really struggled in coverage this season and Bostic gives the Patriots another athletic linebacker (4.59 speed, 6.99 3 cone!) to help when the team needs better defense at the second level.
Every coach seems to love his leadership and football IQ
"He's always had very good football smarts and real command of the defense. I think his leadership skills are improving as he's moving forward and that's just a natural progression as a senior and you have been playing and have the experience." - Former University of Florida and Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator and current Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn
"He's a conscientious guy, Jon is. You see him in the meeting room taking notes." - Quinn
"I think Jon Bostic is playing as well as any linebacker in the country. He's playing really well and he disengages on blocks... He's always been a really good player in space. He can play every down. He can cover, and there's not a lot of guys that can play inside and can cover and play on third down. He can. He's very intelligent. The other thing about Jon, and I try to get our players to understand, it's a 53-man roster in the NFL. You better play special teams. Jon is on our punt team, he's helped us on kickoff. He does a lot of other things that bring value to him in the organization." - Former University of Florida head coach Will Muschamp
Belichick mentioned Bostic in anticipation of last season's Pats-Bears game pic.twitter.com/rbdXyOzZXd— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) September 29, 2015
Bostic still offers plenty of upside
The linebacker just turned 24. He's almost exactly one year younger than Jamie Collins. He's still on his upward trajectory and the Patriots will have him under control through the end of the 2016 season.
There are three linebackers in the class of 2013 that have 100+ tackles and at least one interception: 1st round pick Alec Ogletree, Jamie Collins, and Jon Bostic.
Bostic still has untapped potential.
What player is the odd man out?
With Freeney receiving a one-year extension, that makes Watson the odd-linebacker out. The Patriots could also compensate by moving one of their inactives like RB Travaris Cadet, who is firmly behind James White in the depth chart, or CB Bradley Fletcher. The emergence of Jordan Richards could also make S Tavon Wilson expendable.
It's important to note that Bostic's contract runs through 2016. If Jerod Mayo doesn't return after this season, Bostic would assume the role as the team's 3rd linebacker and could play well enough to earn a quality contract in free agency that would allow the Patriots to pick up a compensatory pick.
As Watson was just re-signed on September 16th, smart money would be on him being the odd man out, but don't count out New England making another trade.