Just five days before the 2017 season opener, the New England Patriots traded two future draft selections – a fifth-rounder and a seventh-rounder, both in 2018 – to the Seattle Seahawks for defensive edge Cassius Marsh. Not even three months later, he was waived again after a string of inconsistent performances. Marsh had played 44% of snaps up to that point but failed to make a noticeable difference on the defensive edge.
His low-point came in mid-November, when the Patriots used him for only two defensive snaps against the Oakland Raiders. Two days later, the 25-year old was let go and subsequently was claimed off waivers by the San Francisco 49ers – a move that worked out well for Marsh: He played almost half of his team's defensive snaps and was awarded with a two-year, $7.7 million contract extension in February.
His time in New England, on the other hand, was a failure. “They asked me to do a bunch of stuff that I had never done,” Marsh recently told the San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch about his tenure with the Patriots: “Covering running backs and receivers and basically almost never rushing the passer, which is what I did in playing defensive line.” Indeed, Marsh was not used as a traditional pass rusher during his stint on Bill Belichick's team.
Instead, the team opted to have him play more as an “elephant” defender; a defensive end/linebacker hybrid in the mold of recently retired Rob Ninkovich. As such, Marsh was asked to set the edge in the run game, drop back in coverage, and only on occasion go after the quarterback. The results were not promising: Marsh was unable to adapt to his new role and leapfrogged on the depth chart by rookies Deatrich Wise Jr. and Adam Butler.
It sounds like Marsh still does not feel too good about how things went down for him in New England. “They don’t have fun there,” the 2014 fourth-round draft selection told the Chronicle. “There’s nothing fun about it. There’s nothing happy about it. I didn’t enjoy any of my time there, you know what I’m saying? It made me for the first time in my life think about not playing football because I hated it that much.”
Marsh's displeasures apparently made him take matters into his own hands: “I confronted [Bill Belichick] about all the things that were going on,” Marsh recalled. “I won’t get into detail, but it was B.S. things they were doing. I just wasn’t a fan. And so I, basically, without asking to get cut, I kind of asked to get cut. […] I had confidence that I would have an opportunity elsewhere and I would take advantage of it.”
Of course, Marsh's statements should not necessarily have to be taken at face value. There is, after all a second side to this story as well. And the Patriots, a team known for its approach to use their players in the best way to maximize their skill set, could very well make the counterclaim – they will not, but they could – that the veteran defender simply failed to perform despite being given regular playing and practice time to do so.
In the end, the Cassius Marsh trade turned out to be a miss for the Patriots: After letting him go, the team turned to Eric Lee and James Harrison to help fill his void but neither was able to provide a significant spark on the defensive edge opposite Trey Flowers.