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In dealing from area of depth, Patriots get stronger on defense

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When tight end Michael Hoomanawanui was a healthy scratch Sunday for the first time in his four-year New England Patriots tenure, it reflected how he played a position in which the team had solid depth, and also how he had slid down the depth chart after the free-agent signing of Scott Chandler and August trade with Detroit for Michael Williams.

So Wednesday's trade (pending physicals) that sends to Hoomanawanui to the Saints in exchange for defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is far from a surprise. In fact, had Patriots starting fullback James Develin not sustained a broken leg in the third preseason game, Hoomanawanui might have had trouble sneaking on the initial 53-man roster.

Receiving 6-foot-5, 324-pound Hicks in return is an intriguing acquisition for the Patriots because there aren't many players with Hicks' physical traits. How those traits are harnessed in the Patriots' scheme remains an unknown (it didn't work out in a similar situation two years ago with Isaac Sopoaga), but it's certainly worth taking a flier on finding out given that the 25-year-old Hicks is still in his prime years.

Hicks joins Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch, Dominique Easley and first-round draft pick Malcom Brown as the team's top defensive tackles. In film study, I would characterize the unit's play as up-and-down -- some very good flashes, but also times when they are noticeably pushed back off the line of scrimmage.

Hicks adds another player to the mix at a position that is generally hard to fill, as the Patriots redistribute assets on their roster.