Panthers Trade Kony Ealy to New England Patriots to Work on Death Star

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A year removed from one of the greatest defensive Super Bowl performances ever, Kony Ealy has been traded to the New England Patriots for a second-round draft pick. The Panthers moved Ealy and a third-round selection (#72 Overall) to advance into the second round (#64 Overall). Carolina now has a first-round, two second-round, and a third-round selection. in the 2017 draft.  

Ealy's time in Carolina has been interesting at the very least. He was the "blue goose" tackle, Gettleman claimed, teams had to jump on when available. The Panthers had Ealy graded as a first-round talent, according to Gettleman, which created high expectations for both fans and the organization.

Ealy's first training camp was kind of bumpy. He had gotten into it with Cam and found the ire of the coaching staff. Ron Rivera downplayed moments as good competition and motivation, Nevertheless, it didn't translate into regular production. Ealy finished his rookie season with nine tackles, four sacks, and a forced fumble. The four sacks generated some hope that the Panthers were easing the rookie in and more playing time was on the horizon.

In 2015, his play and production increased and, while not exactly overwhelmingly alone, the increase was overshadowed by the team's remarkable Super Bowl run. Ealy may have been lost in the shuffle during the regular season, but he found the spotlight in the Super Bowl. The second-year player finished Super Bowl 50 with three sacks, an interception and a forced fumbled. Had Carolina won, he would have been an arguable candidate for Super Bowl MVP. 

Defense & Fumbles Table
Games Def Interceptions Fumbles Sacks & Tackles
Year G GS Int Yds TD Lng PD FF Fmb FR Yds TD Sk Tkl Ast Sfty AV
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/10/2017.

Last season was disappointing for both the Panthers and Ealy. His Super Bowl performance made him the heir apparent to the starting position abdicated by Jared Allen.  After starting the first six games, the Panthers moved an ineffective Ealy into a secondary role in the defense. Oddly, his production increased, leaving many wondering if he just couldn't handle a starting snap-count.

Today's signing of Julius Peppers and the earlier re-signings of Charles Johnson and Mario Addison signaled Carolina wasn't confident Ealy could make make a strong push for a starting position. Ealy, who is entering the final ear of his rookie contract, became the odd-man out. The move gave Carolina the opportunity to  add real productivity through the draft in exchange for a player they didn't think would workout in the long run. In a galaxy far, far away, the Evil Empire received a player who may have a fire to prove himself and what could ultimately be a helpful piece in their continued construction of the Death Star.

By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
Follow @Cat_Chronicles for the latest Panthers news and opinions from the fan perspective.