With six wide receivers creating a logjam on the active roster, the Patriots released Lil'Jordan Humphrey on Tuesday.
Despite a significant role in Weeks 2-4, Humphrey only played 14 snaps in rookie Tyquan Thornton's return to the lineup on Sunday vs. the Lions. After today's news, the Patriots now have the following wide receivers on the 53-man roster: Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Tyquan Thornton.
New England primarily used Humphrey as a run blocker, with 82 of his 128 snaps coming in the running game (64%). The Texas product had emerged as a useful cross between a wide receiver and tight end, often blocking at the point of attack either in the slot or on the move as a lead blocker.
Although the depth at wide receiver created a logjam, Humphrey played as many as 54 snaps in a game this season and was on the field for 57.7 percent of the offensive snaps in the previous three weeks. Based on his large role on game day, the move comes as a slight surprise, but this doesn't appear to be the end of Humphrey's time with the Patriots.
In a subsequent move, the Patriots also released offensive lineman Sebastian Gutierrez from the practice squad. If Humphrey clears waivers, one would expect him to take Gutierrez's spot on the practice squad, where he still has two more standard elevations.
As for replacing Humphrey in the meantime, wide receiver Jakobi Meyers handles most of Humphrey's blocking responsibilities out of the slot.
Rookie wide receiver Tyquan Thornton primarily played as the "X" or the third receiver with the offense in 11-personnel in his 25 snaps on Sunday. Thornton directly cut into veteran DeVante Parker's playing time, as Parker played a season-low 31 snaps.
Humphrey's release also isn't a direct reflection on Kendrick Bourne's usage, but indirectly, Bourne played a season-high 34 snaps as his role increased due to Nelson Agholor's injury. Although Bourne and Thornton's roles are different, it was a numbers game.
The move to release Humphrey could also signal that the Patriots aren't concerned about a long-term ankle injury for tight end Jonnu Smith, who missed last week's game vs. the Lions. With Humphrey having a similar build to a tight end, the Pats liked how he gave them formation flexibility to get into both 11 and 12-personnel looks. If Smith were to miss significant time, the Pats would probably keep Humphrey on the 53-man roster.
The Patriots will return to the practice field ahead of Sunday's trip to Cleveland on Wednesday at Gillette Stadium.