Ekuale, 28, enjoyed a standout career in college at Washington State and entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Cleveland Browns in 2019. Ekuale played seven games for the Browns before landing with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2020, where he played in nine games, including five starts.
The Patriots signed him last season to the practice squad, and he earned an elevation on several occasions playing in seven games. The reason for Ekuale’s suspension hasn’t been shared publicly, but this has become an unfortunate part of his NFL journey.
How Many Times Has Daniel Ekuale Been Suspended?
This isn’t the first time the NFL has suspended Ekuale. He was also suspended as a rookie in 2019. The first suspension was due to Ekuale failing a test for performance-enhancing drugs. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Samoan can be a force against the run as he can consume two interior blockers.
His presence can free up linebackers to shoot gaps, which can augment the overall effectiveness of a defense. However, the best ability is availability. If Ekuale cannot remain available to his team, his value will decrease.
The Patriots now have a dilemma or at least a decision to make. Is Ekuale a player who they can trust to remain eligible to play? Secondly, at his best, does he offer something to the Patriots’ defense that isn’t currently available?
As a team that is up against some financial restrictions this season, New England has to think long and hard about any player additions, weighing the pros and cons of every potential signing. Looking at how the Patriots have defended the run through the first two weeks of the season, it is unclear if Ekuale would represent an upgrade over anyone at his position.
Also, adding Ekuale would mean the Patriots are sending another player down to the practice squad to make room for him. There is a lot to consider, but it starts with a closer look at the defensive line’s play this season.
How Have the Patriots’ DTs Performed?
Second-year stud Christian Barmore is the defensive line star through the first two weeks of the 2022 season. Barmore has a sack, two tackles, a tackle for loss, and two QB hits. His impact goes beyond raw numbers, and he successfully creates havoc on the interior of an opposing team’s defense.
Davon Godchaux has been similarly disruptive. He, too, has a sack to go with four tackles on the year. Likewise, the demise of Lawrence Guy has been greatly exaggerated and accelerated. The veteran defensive tackle is second to Deatrich Wise Jr. in tackles amongst defensive linemen.
With so many Patriots D-Linemen already playing well, finding a spot for Ekuale seems to be a bit more challenging. When you consider the Patriots may soon have to make room for the return of WR Kristian Wilkerson, rookie Tyquan Thornton, and perhaps Ty Montgomery, keeping Ekuale–at least for the long term–doesn’t seem practical.