Adam Schefter of ESPN initially reported the move.
The deal comes on the same day that veteran Julius Peppers reportedly agreed to return to the Panthers, according to Kevin Patra of NFL.com. That left the team with plenty of depth at defensive end, as Mike Clay of ESPN.com noted:
The Patriots, meanwhile, continued their fascinating offseason. They already traded for tight end Dwayne Allen on Wednesday and signed cornerback Stephon Gilmore the following day. According to ESPN's Dianna Russini, they could trade cornerback Malcolm Butler for New Orleans Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks.
B/R's Matt Miller thinks this latest move will prove to be another savvy decision by head coach Bill Belichick and Company:
Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus wasn't as sold on the acquisition, however:
That divergence in opinion sums up Ealy nicely. The 25-year-old registered 32 combined tackles, five sacks and two forced fumbles in 2016. He's notched 14 sacks in his three-year career, though he was dominant in Super Bowl 50, finishing with three sacks, a forced fumble and an interception.
Ealy has never been able to sustain that production on a consistent basis, though it's clear he has talent. The Patriots needed to bolster the edge this offseason with Chris Long potentially departing in free agency and Jabaal Sheard off to the Indianapolis Colts, per Schefter and ESPN's Field Yates, so making the trade for Ealy made sense.
The move may be a one-year rental, however, as Ealy is entering the final year of his contract and can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2017 season.
The Patriots will have a year to see if he is a player they want to commit to long term. If he doesn't pan out, they didn't give up much in the process.