Should the Bears Sign DL Dominique Easley?

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Former 2014 first round pick Dominque Easley (29th overall) was released by the New England Patriots today after two injury plagued seasons. The Patriots drafted Easley out of Florida, 29th overall in the 2014 draft despite two ACL tears in college.

Prior to his 2nd tear in September of his senior season, Easley was projected to be a top ten pick on some draft boards and a few pundits, like Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller. SI’s Doug Farrar, and Ryan Riddle, had a healthy Easley in the same tier as Aaron Donald and #1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney.

Easley was expected to be the Patriots top sub-package pass rusher this year, as he was in his first two seasons with the Pats when healthy enough to be on the field. He appeared in 11 games for the Pats in each of the last two years, garnering three starts, three sacks, 24 tackles, an interception and a pass deflection. The Pats clearly took a risk selecting the injury-prone Easley late in the first round, but he showed flashes of the talent that had some evaluaters projecting Easley as a top ten overall talent.

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Coming into the 2016 season, Easley was considered healthy and a key piece of a Pats d-line that lost it’s most productive pass rusher in Chandler Jones. The fact that the Pats let Easley go should be a major red flag to most teams as they were already thin along the line and don’t have many draft picks this season due to Deflategate. Is Easley hurt again? Is there an off-field issue that hasn’t come to light yet, that the Pats are being proactive about?

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports /

On paper this move makes little sense. There is no doubting Easley’s talent when healthy.  Here is my take on Easley from my 2014 scouting report:

"A mid-first round talent who could slip to the 3rd based on concerns over two ACL injuries in college, the second coming late last year. Easley could be a steal anywhere past the first round as long as he recovers well from his 2nd ACL injury.He has elite quickness, explosion off the ball, uses his hands well to shed blockers, and has the burst to track down ball-carriers and QBs in the backfield. Easley is a bit undersized (6’2, 284) but makes up for it with an elite mix of power and quickness. He’s strong enough to hold up against the run in an every down role, but could dominate as a sub-package pass rusher."

Sounds like a player the Bears could use right? Easley may not have the fortitude to hold up as an every down DE in the Bears odd-man front, but would be a big upgrade as a sub-package pass rusher over the Bears current options like Ego Ferguson, Will Sutton, Bruce Gaston, etc.

The fact that a traditionally smart organization like the Patriots released Easley is definitely a red flag, but there is no doubting that Easley had first round talent just two years ago which makes the possibility at least tempting for a team like the Bears with significant holes on their defensive line. Another fact to consider is that the Patriots are actually taking a bigger salary cap hit by releasing Easley ($3.6M), then by keeping him ($1.9M), though if another team were to sign Easley as they probably will… then the Pats would end up saving money.

So do the Bears make a phone call to Easley’s agent and assess his interest? Right now they are projected to start Mitch Unrein or Ego Ferguson at the other DE position and Easley would be a significant talent increase over both. This year’s draft is also loaded with d-line prospects, but signing a presumably healthy Easley would give the Bears one less hole they need to fill during the draft later this month.

What do you think? Should the Bears roll the dice on Easley? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter (@_Mikeflannery)