As Cassius Marsh's special-teams snaps declined, so did his value to Pats

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A few thoughts on Tuesday’s release of defensive end Cassius Marsh:

Fourth down as much of a factor as the other three downs. When the Patriots acquired Marsh, it was noted that he had been one of the Seahawks’ best special-teams players. The Patriots had big plans for him in the kicking game, as evidenced by him playing 32 special-teams snaps in the season opener against the Chiefs. But Marsh’s contributions on special teams sharply declined as the year progressed, as he went from a core player to a niche one (just six snaps on fourth down Sunday). One reason was the emergence of linebacker Trevor Reilly, who has been one of the Patriots’ best special-teams players. In some ways, Reilly supplanted Marsh -- first on special teams and at times on the edge while playing on defense.

Body type didn’t fit the defensive role. The Patriots asked Marsh to play on the end of the line of scrimmage in a Rob Ninkovich-type role, but the 6-foot-4, 245-pound Marsh always seemed a bit light to carry out those responsibilities and set a hard edge in the running game. Offensive tackles and tight ends didn't have much trouble accounting for him in the running game. To me, Marsh was a similar player to the 2014 version of Akeem Ayers, who was more of an off-the-line linebacker in the base defense and then could play on the end of the line as a nickel rusher. The Patriots played a lot of pure four-man line while playing nickel in 2014, so it was a good marriage between Ayers and the D. This year, it hasn't seemed to be as much pure four-man line.

Hefty price to pay for 10 games. The Patriots traded fifth- and seventh-round picks for Marsh on Sept. 2, which is a significant price to pay for a player released less than three months later. It isn’t so much the location of the picks but the volume of them. There aren’t many trades where the Patriots give up two selections for a single player, as picks are often viewed as valuable currency for the flexibility they provide to work the draft board. That’s why there have been more trades that involve acquiring a player with a later-round pick in exchange for an earlier-round pick (e.g., Dwayne Allen, James O’Shaughnessy, Kony Ealy, Martellus Bennett). Specific to Marsh, the Patriots get kudos for acknowledging a mistake and not keeping a player who isn’t working out, just to save face. At the same time, the bottom line is that the trade didn’t work out in their favor. They gave up too much for what they got in return.

Been short at DE all season. This is where the torn ACL sustained by third-round pick Derek Rivers in August, and Ealy not working out, is still hurting the team as it led them, in part, to go after Marsh. There is always an added element of risk to doing that when a player grows up in a different system and there isn’t as much background and knowledge on how he’d fit in the new program. Now without Marsh as well, the Patriots have Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Eric Lee as their pure ends, while Adam Butler can sometimes align there depending on the scheme, and linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Reilly have also played at the end of the line. It’s hard to imagine where the team would be without Flowers.