The Green Bay Packers used a premium draft pick, a second-rounder in 2012, on Jerel Worthy to juice their inside pass rush.
But Worthy's career with them is over after 2 ½ years that included two major injuries and minimal help for their pass rush. The Packers on Tuesday traded the defensive lineman to the New England Patriots for what a source familiar with the deal said was a future seventh-round draft pick contingent on Worthy making the Patriots' roster.
The trade implicitly confirms that Worthy was in danger of getting cut by the Packers by the end of training camp. He'd missed all offseason and was on the non-football injury list because of back surgery performed early in the offseason, and even if he returned next week for the final two weeks of training camp he would have been coming off a long layoff and facing an uphill battle for a roster spot.
Worthy was in the Packers' locker room after practice Tuesday afternoon and talked extensively about his imminent return to the field. He had no inkling that general manager Ted Thompson was about to trade him – news of the deal didn't break until Worthy's agent tweeted it Tuesday evening.
"I don't worry about (getting cut) at all because I know what kind of caliber of player that I am and I know what I can bring to this team," Worthy said before learning of the deal. "I know that when I get back out there, I'm going to be ready to make some plays."
Worthy became expendable because the Packers have a young group of defensive linemen who have moved ahead of him and a core of inside pass rushers they like.
Three players have been rotating among two primary inside rushing spots in the No. 1 nickel and dime defenses so far in camp: Datone Jones, Mike Daniels and outside linebacker-defensive end Mike Neal. B.J. Raji has played there in the past, and outside linebacker Julius Peppers can rush from that position as well.
The young defensive linemen ahead of Worthy were Jones (first-round pick in '13), Josh Boyd (fifth-rounder in '13), Khyrie Thornton (third-rounder this year) and Mike Pennel (undrafted this year).
The Packers keep five to seven defensive linemen on their 53-man roster, and this year five are locks to make it: Raji, Daniels, Jones, Boyd and Thornton.
Pennel, free-agent Letroy Guion and Worthy were the leading contenders for the likely last roster spot or two at that position.
Guion, a free agent from the Minnesota Vikings, has a one-year deal that included a $100,000 signing bonus. He's on the physically unable to perform list because of a hamstring injury sustained about a week before the start of training camp.
Guion said after his rehabilitation workout Tuesday that he's not sure when the team's medical staff will clear him to play. If the Packers don't think he's ready by the start of the regular season, they can leave him on PUP, and he'd have to miss at least the first six games.
"The coaches and training staff know my situation, they know I can play some good football," Guion said. "I'll let that pan out how it's going to pan out."
Worthy's injury issues with the Packers date back to his rookie year, when he sustained a torn ACL in the regular-season finale. He returned from reconstructive surgery late last season but played in only two of the final six games, 11 snaps total.
His two-year, 16-game career with the Packers ends with him getting 2 ½ sacks, all as a rookie.
"At the end of the day, I'm going to trust in the process," Worthy told reporters Tuesday afternoon. "As I've said before, the training staff and the strength and conditioning guys have done the best job they can to get me ready up until this point. When Ted (Thompson) takes the reins off me, I'm going to go get it."