Kony Ealy is joining the New England Patriots after he was traded by the Carolina Panthers along with a third-round pick in exchange for New England’s second-round selection, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Ealy, 25, was a second-round pick by the Panthers in 2014 and has 14 career sacks in three seasons. He looked primed to break out as a star in the Carolina defense during the team’s postseason run in 2015, posting three sacks and an interception in the team’s Super Bowl 50 loss.
But he started just six games in 2016 and only tallied five sacks, failing to reach what looked like it may have been a big year on the way for the young defensive end.
In New England, Ealy will be on the final year of his rookie contract and set to become a free agent in 2018. His inability to carry the Super Bowl momentum into 2016 and his impending free agency made him a player who wasn’t difficult for the Patriots to acquire, as the team will only move down a round in the draft order.
It’s a small slide in the draft order too, as the Patriots will give up the No. 64 overall pick — the last selection of the second round — and take Carolina’s No. 72 selection.
The Patriots traded away Chandler Jones during the 2016 offseason and didn’t get much out of additions like Chris Long and Barkevious Mingo, or Jabaal Sheard who was added in 2015. Former fourth-round selection Trey Flowers stepped up to lead the team with seven sacks, but the Patriots could use more pass rush help.