The New England Patriots’ first acquisition of an outside player this free agency week came via trade. The team sent Chase Winovich to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for another linebacker, Mack Wilson.
ESPN’s Dan Graziano graded the move after it happened, and declared Cleveland the winners: while the Patriots were given a “C” grade, the Browns received a “B.”
This is an eye-of-the-beholder situation. Winovich saw his playing time decrease last year in New England and was falling out of favor there, so the Patriots send him to a Browns team looking for edge-rush help in exchange for Wilson, a linebacker who’d also seen his role decrease in Cleveland’s system of late.
The Patriots are very thin at the off-ball linebacker position, with Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins Sr. and Ja’Whaun Bentley all scheduled to hit free agency, so adding a veteran covers them in case they lose one, two or all three of them. But this deal weakens them at the edge rusher position, so we have to see what ancillary move or moves they have planned to add there behind Matthew Judon.
Cleveland may lose Jadeveon Clowney to free agency, plus you can’t have too many pass-rushers. The Browns weren’t using Wilson as much anymore, so they take a shot that whatever perceived deficiencies led to Winovich’s reduced role in New England won’t be a problem in their defense.
Winovich and Wilson both saw their playing time decrease over their three years in the NFL, prompting the two teams to make a move. As a result, the Patriots did improve their off-the-ball linebacker corps but, as noted by Graziano, weakened their edge.
The position is currently led by Pro Bowler Matthew Judon as well as youngsters Josh Uche and Ronnie Perkins.