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Could the addition of Mack Wilson be a sign of changes to come?

The Patriots trade for Mack Wilson is perhaps a sign that Bill Belichick is looking for a different type of player to fill the inside linebacker role.

Linebacker Mack Wilson
Linebacker Mack Wilson

Bill Belichick has often used the opportunity to trade players who haven't emerged as consistently productive pieces for individuals in a similar situation elsewhere. On the surface that's what appears to be the case with the Chase Winovich-Mack Wilson deal.

Both are linebackers who have flashed ability with their respective teams. Wilson played a significant role for Cleveland as a rookie, starting 14 of 16 games as a fifth-round pick out of Alabama, finishing with 82 tackles in a solid opening act. But a knee injury limited him in 2020, and when the Browns drafted Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah in the first round last season, it limited Wilson to mostly special teams.

Obviously, Winovich followed a similar path with the Patriots after being selected in the third round in that same 2019 draft. He showed signs of pass-rushing ability at times but last season was relegated to a special teams role and was inactive in the playoff loss in Buffalo.

Both players will likely welcome the chance to shine elsewhere, and Wilson's presence with the Patriots could be a sign of a change in mentality in New England. Bill Belichick usually prefers bulkier linebackers on the inside, or off-the-ball, which is where Wilson does most of his work. But rather than the 250-plus pounders that Belichick has normally used in that role, Wilson checks in at 6-1 and 233 pounds.

Perhaps Belichick is looking for smaller, quicker linebackers who can operate in space and contribute in pass coverage while being stout enough to fill gaps against the run. It's a trend that has developed in recent seasons around the league with standouts like Devin White in Tampa, Patrick McQueen in Baltimore and many others, including Owusu-Koramoah.

Ja'Whaun Bentley, who remains a free agent, manned that role for the Patriots last season and tips the scales at 256 pounds, which is significantly heavier than Wilson. So, it's possible that Belichick wants to see if Wilson can potentially join youngsters such as Cameron McGrone (6-1, 236) and veteran Raekwon McMillian (6-2, 242) on the inside.

Free agency figures to impact the position significantly with Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Bentley all on the market at this time and Kyle Van Noy having been released. With the arrival of Wilson, it appears as if Belichick is looking for a different look at the position in 2022.

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