Patriots trade OT Justin Herron to Las Vegas Raiders; here's why the move was necessary

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FOXBORO — The Patriots had to clear a roster spot on Wednesday, so the team decided to be creative.

According to the NFL Network, the Patriots are trading Justin Herron to the Las Vegas Raiders in a deal with the two teams flipping draft picks in 2024.

The deal was reported during head coach Bill Belichick’s morning press conference, but the he would not confirm the news.

“No, but when we can, if we can, we will,” Belichick said when he was asked if he could confirm the trade.

Herron was drafted in the sixth round in 2020 and developed into one of the Patriots’ top backup tackles. As a rookie in 2020, he played in 12 games, making six starts. Last season, he appeared in all 16 games and made four starts. Although he was active for both Patriots games this season, he did not play a snap.

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Patriots offensive tackle Justin Herron walks off the field on Dec. 20, 2020, after the Dolphins had defeated New England in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Herron loses spot with Patriots

This summer, Herron was beaten out by Yodny Cajuste in the battle for the Patriots’ top backup tackle spot. Cajuste made his 2022 debut in the Week 1 game against the Dolphins, filling in for Isaiah Wynn at right tackle. The Patriots also added veteran tackle Marcus Cannon to the practice squad last week. Cannon started four games last year for Houston before a back injury ended his season.

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How Ekuale’s suspension influenced trade

The reason for trading Herron, however, goes beyond the team’s tackle depth. Wednesday marked the deadline to put defensive tackle Daniel Ekuale on the Patriots’ 53-man roster. Ekuale started the season serving a two-game suspension — for a reason the NFL did not announce and the player has not revealed.

Ekuale played in seven games last season for the Patriots. He finished with five tackles and two sacks. The 28-year-old adds more defensive tackle depth to the roster to go along with Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy, Christian Barmore and Carl Davis

Ekuale was present at Patriots practice on Wednesday, which means he has been added to the team’s 53-man roster. For the Pats, it made sense to trade a player for added draft capital as opposed to releasing someone to create a roster spot.

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones throws a pass over the outstretched hand of Patriots defensive lineman Daniel Ekuale during the preseason game on Aug. 11 in Foxboro.

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Herron heads to a team whose new head coach, former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, knows him well. This deal marks the second trade between Las Vegas and New England this offseason after the Pats traded quarterback Jarrett Stidham to the Raiders in May.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Patriots trade offensive lineman Justin Herron to the Raiders