On Friday morning, rumors started bubbling to the surface that the New England Patriots could be shopping defensive end Kony Ealy. The Patriots acquired Ealy just five months ago from the Panthers in a trade that sent a second-round pick to Carolina in exchange for Ealy and a third.
But it appears, despite having a big need for pass rushers, New England already wants to move on from the 25-year-old, former second-round pick. There have been oddities surrounding Ealy at Patriots camp all offseason. He missed the first day of practice because of a “coaches decision.” There was also an odd moment at the beginning of camp when Tom Brady and Patriots owner Tom Kraft pulled Ealy aside and had a long, five-minute conversation.
As a result, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero is reporting that the Patriots are thinking about trading the young pass rusher:
One to watch in games tonight: Kony Ealy. #Patriots have gauged trade market for him, per sources. Started to settle in lately, though.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) August 25, 2017
The Detroit Lions obviously have a big need for a defensive end, and with Ealy right in front of them on Friday night, they’ll get a good look at him.
Additionally, we know that Lions general manager Bob Quinn has a good working relationship with some former co-workers in New England. Since joining the Lions, Quinn has made three trades with the Patriots—one to acquire Jon Bostic, one to send away Kyle Van Noy, and one on Day 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft. Could Quinn make yet another deal? Let’s weigh the positives and negatives.
If Ealy was on the Patriots’ radar enough to trade for him this year, there’s a good chance he was pretty high on their draft board in 2014, when Bob Quinn was still with the team. Heading into the draft, Ealy was coming off a monster year at Missouri. He finished the 2013 season with 43 tackles, 15.0 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks. That performance was good enough to earn him All-SEC honors, and some first-round consideration from draft experts.
Ealy ended up going to the Panthers in the second round and had some modest success in Carolina. As pointed out by our friends at Cat Scratch Reader, who were puzzled by the trade to the Patriots, Ealy has the second-most sacks (14.0) of any defensive lineman from the 2014 draft, trailing only superstar Aaron Donald.
So where would Ealy fit in for the Lions? We already know Detroit has a heavy need for the position after Kerry Hyder was lost for the season and Ezekiel Ansah remains on the PUP with an unspecified leg injury.
Ealy is big for a 4-3 defensive end and follows the mold of Hyder. Ealy is actually two inches taller (6-foot-4) and five pounds heavier (275). In other words, he’d fit pretty nicely as the team’s closed end, and could kick inside on obvious passing downs. He fits the position much like free agent defensive end Desmond Bryant—who our own Ryan Mathews profiled earlier in the week.
But there are obviously some downsides to Ealy. He struggled with consistency in his time with Carolina. In fact, in spite of a decent statline, Ealy only started 15 games in three years, but only missed one game in his career.
Then there’s the fact that the Patriots are already putting this guy on the trading block after only five months from trading for him. That has to be a huge red flag for any team looking to take a flyer on the young pass rusher.
And while Ealy’s profile fits the closed end position pretty well, he doesn’t quite have the athletic profile that Detroit is necessarily looking for. Erik Schlitt of Lions Wire developed a formula called QIB, which stands for “Quinn Influence Benchmarks.” The idea behind QIB is it sets athletic parameters for what Bob Quinn typically likes at certain positions. Schlitt explains the process a little more here.
But for our purposes, just know that Ealy only partially fits the athletic profile that Quinn typically likes in a defensive end:
off in the 10 y/s by 0.05— Erik Schlitt (@erikschlitt) August 25, 2017
off in the SS by 0.02
He's someone to keep an eye on pic.twitter.com/dNUgHzM1uU
In the end, I still believe Ealy is worth taking a shot at. The Patriots acquired him for cheap, and Ealy only comes with a cap hit less than $1 million. That means the Lions could sweep him up for a low draft pick and not have to worry much about his impact on the salary cap. Detroit could really use the help, and they’ll probably get a good look tonight to see if Ealy is worth the minor investment.
Should the Lions try to trade for Patriots Kony Ealy?
This poll is closed