Patriots release Kony Ealy following third preseason game


The Patriots announced on Saturday afternoon that they had released defensive end Kony Ealy, ending his brief and odd tenure in New England.

Ealy was acquired by the Patriots in a trade with Carolina when Bill Belichick send the No. 64 overall pick in the 2017 draft to the Panthers in exchange for the 25-year-old defensive end and the No. 72 overall pick. Moving down eight picks to scoop up Ealy was a low-risk move that made sense given the question marks the Patriots had at defensive end, but Ealy was never able to capitalize on his opportunity. 

Things began ominously for him when he missed OTA practices after walking off the field in the middle of one session. He then was held out of the team's first training camp practice by Belichick, which brought to mind Panthers coach Ron Rivera's comments during the league meetings in March when Rivera said Ealy could "re-ascend" . . . "if he listens."

The Patriots tried to make Ealy a more versatile end to fit their scheme -- coverage is part of the deal for many of their ends, including the recently-retired Rob Ninkovich -- but soon after camp began, he was not spotted dropping back in the passing game.

When asked about Ealy, Belichick spoke positively about the player, and on 98.5 The Sports Hub before Friday's game, Belichick said that Ealy was "definitely on the upswing" over the last three weeks. Those comments came in light of a report from earlier in the day that the team had been gauging Ealy's trade market. 

Though Ealy had shown flashes as a pass-rusher in recent practices, he was inconsistent in joint practices against the Texans and in last week's preseason game. Against the Lions on Friday, he recorded a quarterback hit but didn't see his first game action until about two minutes into the third quarter. In a game that is typically considered a dress rehearsal for the regular-season opener, for Ealy to be taking the field at that point was somewhat telling for where he stood on the defensive end depth chart. 

The Patriots are relatively thin in terms of true defensive ends on the roster. Trey Flowers tops the list, and he's joined by Deatrich Wise, Geneo Grissom and Kidder. Derek Rivers suffered a serious knee injury during a practice with the Texans last week and will miss his rookie season.

Lawrence Guy has some positional versatility to play all over the defensive line and should see plenty of work in the regular season. Linebackers Dont'a Hightower, Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy all have experience on the edge, and undrafted rookie Harvey Langi could factor in there as well. Undrafted rookie defensive lineman Adam Butler, who typically sees time as a tackle, has also been used on the edge at times this summer. 

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