On the same day the Carolina Panthers brought back one of the franchise’s best pass-rushers, they sent another, once-promising edge rusher packing.
The Panthers traded fourth-year defensive end Kony Ealy and a third-round draft pick to New England for the Patriots’ second-round pick, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported. The Panthers moved up eight spots by swapping their third-round pick (72nd overall) for the Pats’ second-round pick (64). Carolina still has a comp pick (No. 98) at the end of the third round.
It’s a stunning fall from grace for a player who might have been the MVP of Super Bowl 50 had the Panthers beaten the Denver Broncos. Ealy had three sacks, an interception a forced fumble and a fumble recovery against Peyton Manning in the Broncos’ 24-10 victory in February of 2016.
But Ealy failed to build on his big night in Santa Clara, Calif.
He had five sacks all of last season, and frustrated coaches with a stubborn streak that general manager Dave Gettleman compared to Josh Norman’s early in the cornerback’s career.
The Panthers have loaded on experienced edge rushers, re-signing Mario Addison, Wes Horton and Charles Johnson and agreeing to terms with future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers.
Those additions made Ealy expendable.
The second-round pick in 2014, who lost his starting job to Horton last season, had 14 sacks in three seasons with Carolina.