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2017 NFL free agency: Former Patriots DE Jabaal Sheard signs with Colts on 3-year deal

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The Patriots have lost their pass rusher to a conference rival.

Moments after news broke of the New England Patriots acquiring EDGE Kony Ealy in a trade from the Carolina Panthers, ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Field Yates report that Patriots free agent EDGE Jabaal Sheard will be signing with the Indianapolis Colts.

Sheard was a member of the Patriots from 2015-16 after spending four seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Sheard recorded 13 sacks in two seasons with the Patriots and has 36 sacks in his career.

The Patriots anticipated Sheard would take on a larger role in 2016 after the departure of EDGE Chandler Jones, but Sheard struggled with additional playing time. After playing nearly 75% of the snaps over the first half of the season, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick decided to make Sheard a healthy scratch in week 11 against the San Francisco 49ers and relegated Sheard to the #3 and #4 pass rushing role for the remainder of the season.

Ealy is expected to take on Sheard’s role in the Patriots defense and Sheard was apparently still unhappy with being a scratch against the 49ers and wanted a fresh start, per the Globe’s Ben Volin. The Colts are hoping that Sheard can find that 2015 performance level that made Chandler Jones expendable.

EDIT: Here are the contract details:

Sheard will average $8.5 million per season, which means that the Patriots can likely expect a 4th round compensatory pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, assuming the Patriots don’t sign a comparable free agent.