The New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns are swapping some defensive players. On Tuesday, the two AFC clubs agreed to a deal that will send edge rusher Chase Winovich to Cleveland, while linebacker Mack Wilson will be heading to Foxborough.
Outside of any other compensation coming down as a part of this deal before it is made official at the start of the new league year, this player-for-player trade is largely straightforward. From a macro point of view, this will be an opportunity for both players to reset their careers after becoming rotational pieces at their respective positions after an initial pop upon entering the league.
So how did both of these clubs make out in the deal? Here are the grades for both the Patriots and Browns:
New England desperately needed to add depth at linebacker, so the addition of Mack Wilson should be looked at as a positive from that standpoint. He's started 28 games throughout his career, which includes 14 starts during his rookie season, which was by far his most productive to date. That year, he totaled 82 tackles, recorded seven pass breakups to go along with a sack. With Dont'a Hightower, Ja'Whaun Bentley and Jamie Collins all set to be free agents along the team released Kyle Van Noy earlier this offseason, getting an experienced player could help cushion those potential departures.
Wilson's arrival also helps the Patriots get younger at the position. Despite being in the same draft class as Winovich, Wilson is only 24 years old, while Winovich will be 27 at the start of the 2022 season. At 6-foot-1, 233 pounds, Wilson is a tad undersized for what the Patriots typically look for in a linebacker, but he's more athletic than what they had on the inside and plays well in coverage.
By moving on from Winovich -- a player that fell out of favor in New England -- the Patriots are getting a young linebacker with upside that at the very worst can be a solid depth piece to possibly pair with some veterans they retain and/or add on the open market. According to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones, Wilson has been on the Patriots radar for quite some time. Typically, that means Bill Belichick has a specific role in mind for the player, which could result in a bounce-back season for Wilson in his first year with the Patriots.
Similar to how we view the Patriots getting rid of Winovich, the Browns are moving on from a player that wasn't able to blossom into a more prominent role following a promising rookie season and are addressing a need in the process.
Jadeveon Clowney is currently set to be a free agent and bringing Winovich aboard does give the Browns some depth if he decides to ink a deal elsewhere. Winovich totaled 5.5 sacks in each of his first two seasons with the Patriots but did see his production (and playing time) drop off considerably in 2021. He played in just 14% of the defensive snaps last season after playing 58% in 2020. With this change of scenery and potential for more consistent playing time, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Winovich sees a resurgence in Cleveland, especially with the opportunity to play opposite of star pass rusher Myles Garrett.
Like Wilson, Winovich is entering the final year of his rookie contract but won't cost much of anything for the Browns as he is slated to have a base salary of under $1 million. Compared to the $2.54 million Wilson is due for 2022 and Cleveland was able to fill a more pressing need at a much cheaper rate.