The Cleveland Browns executed a somewhat rare player-for-player trade this offseason, sending inside linebacker Mack Wilson to the New England Patriots in exchange for edge defender Chase Winovich. With Jadeveon Clowney remaining unsigned, Winovich would profile to slide into the starting lineup opposite All-Pro Myles Garrett, from whom he has already begun to learn.
“There’s something about understanding and appreciating history that I found really fascinating”, he recently said, via the team’s website, when asked about working with Garrett. “He’s clearly an amazing football player, and I’ve already learned a ton from watching him play. I’m looking to learning even more from him”.
Garrett is coming off of arguably his best season yet, recording a career-high 16 sacks with 51 tackles, including 17 tackles for loss, and 33 quarterback hits. He also recorded three passes defensed, forced a fumble, and recovered a fumble for a touchdown, the first score of his career. He finished first-team All-Pro for the second year in a row.
Winovich, a former third-round pick out of Michigan who is native to Pennsylvania, was demoted last year, hardly playing 100 defensive snaps. He recorded 11 sacks combined in his first two seasons across under 700 total snaps played, with 85 tackles (10 for loss) in his career, two passes defensed, and a forced fumble, as well as an interception.
Yet he fell out of favor for Bill Belichick and the Patriots, with both sides hoping that their newly-acquired players will fare better in a new environment. Wilson also fell backward on the depth chart in Cleveland as well last year, so the swap could potentially work out for all parties involved.
“I knew I could do certain things well coming out of college, but there were a lot of areas in which I could get better”, Winovich admitted. “Some of those included my emotions and just mentally understanding football, understanding the mechanisms of pass rush and understanding myself. Physically, I feel the strongest I’ve ever been. I think there’s a lot to be optimistic about”.
The last two players the Browns tried to pair with Garrett were, of course, Clowney most recently, as well as Olivier Vernon. Both were more accomplished in their careers before coming to Cleveland than is Winovich, but playing on the opposite side of Garrett certainly won’t hurt anybody.
I’m sure fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers wish they could have traded the Patriots Devin Bush in exchange for Winovich. Instead they signed their own former Browns linebacker, Genard Avery, to act as their number three behind T.J. Watt and Alex Highsmith.