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Panthers trade Kony Ealy to Patriots

Washington Redskins v Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 22: Kony Ealy #94 of the Carolina Panthers silences the Washington Redskins offense after a sack during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 22, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

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The Panthers brought back the franchise’s top two sackers this offseason.

So today, they traded a guy they were hoping might join that list someday but didn’t.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Panthers have traded defensive end Kony Ealy to the Patriots along with a third-round pick, and will get New England’s second-round pick in return.

Speculation began to brew earlier in the day that Peppers’ return could make Ealy expendable (Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review mentioned it), but the destination and the return remains a surprise.

Ealy, a former second-rounder, had an MVP-level performance in Super Bowl 50, tying a Super Bowl record with three sacks and a forced fumble and an interception. But given a chance to follow up and get a big payday from the Panthers, he only had five sacks last season.

This will put the Panthers back in the market for some young pass-rush, even with bringing Julius Peppers and Charles Johnson back, along with 2016’s leading sacker Mario Addison.

And with the Panthers trading him for eight spots of draft stock (72 to 64), it shows the value they put on him entering the last year of his contract.