One of the major moves in March was when the Patriots swapped the 64th pick in the 2017 draft for the 72nd pick and landed Kony Ealy. The value between the 64th and 72nd pick is roughly the equivalent of a 5th rounder, so the Patriots gave up little for a flyer on a guy with potential but hadn’t put it together yet. Ealy had a monster Super Bowl 50 performance, but never seemed to put things together in Carolina. When asked about the trade in March, then Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said that getting any return for Ealy was “Gold”. Ealy was labeled as inconsistent and stubborn with the coaching staff in his time with the Carolina Panthers and that problem seemed to reoccur in New England.
Today’s news marks the end of Ealy’s time with the Patriots.
Ealy’s training camp started off ominously bad on Day 1 when he was held out of practice and there was already obvious tension between the coaching staff and the player. Ealy was losing first team reps to Derek Rivers, Geneo Grissom, and Adam Butler in the first week, which meant he needed a strong preseason showing to work his way back up the depth chart. Ealy was mostly a non-factor in his preseason action, which lead to a report that the Patriots were trying to deal him leaked yesterday. In the third preseason game against the Lions, which is considered the dress rehearsal game, Ealy did not play until the 2nd team defense came in. That likely sealed his fate in the eyes of the coaching staff.
The team can get creative to replace Ninkovich’s role since they have former college edge rushers in their linebacker corps, with Kyle Van Noy, Dont’a Hightower, and Shea McClellin to count on as well as UDFA Harvey Langi, who’s flashed at times this year. The other end spot gets a bit murky with unproven players behind Trey Flowers with Grissom contributing nothing in his career on defense and Deatrich Wise in his first NFL season. By the end of the season, the Patriots will figure out something that works with their pass rush. As for Kony Ealy, the biggest concern for him is teams that will be willing to take a flyer on him after washing out of two championship contending teams.