The New England Patriots have made yet another controversial move in what has become a future-defining offseason, cutting loose 2014 first-round selection Dominique Easley on Wednesday afternoon.
The defensive lineman, who had increased expectations on his plate for the 2016 season after the Patriots saw the departure of interior rushers Akiem Hicks to the Chicago Bears and Sealver Siliga to the Seattle Seahawks this spring, played 25% of New England's defensive snaps in 2015, totaling two sacks and 15 combined tackles in 11 appearances.
Acquired with the 29th pick in the 2014 draft out of Florida, the Staten Island, NY native garnered an interception, a sack, and 10 combined tackles in his rookie season while showcasing a surplus of potential rushing the passer on the interior of the defensive line.
However, Easley's development has been stunted by consistent injury issues, the primary cause for his release.
Easley's long history of injury
After tearing both of his ACLs while with the Gators, including a tear to his right ACL in his final college season which limited his availability to just three games in the 2013 campaign, the Patriots were aware of the risk that they were running when they selected him, and their greatest fears quickly came to fruition in his first two seasons.
Easley suffered a knee injury that limited him to just 11 games in a rookie season in which he played 24.6% of the team's defensive snaps on their road to a Super Bowl championship.
Then, after displaying improvement as a pass rusher in 2015, Easley suffered a quadriceps injury in a Week 14 win over the Houston Texans that sidelined him for the remainder of the season, underlining his inability to stave off substantial injuries.
However, Easley has essentially recovered from the quadriceps injury and had been preparing to begin offseason work. Reports suggest that the most prominent motive behind shelling Easley was due to off-the-field concerns, with the team taking a salary cap hit in order to rid the locker room of his presence.
Where this leaves New England
With the transaction, New England will most likely be forced to eat $3.6 million in salary cap charges rather than the $1.9 million that they would have been forced to swallow had he remained on the roster.
Whatever the case may be, chalk this up to be a rare blunder by head coach Bill Belichick and assistant to the coaching staff Mike Lombardi in personnel decisions. New England will progress forward with newly-acquired defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, former first-rounder Malcom Brown, and veteran Alan Branch along the interior of the defensive line.