On a day that generally features at least a surprise or two, the biggest move may have been one that Bill Belichick decided not to make.
In trimming his roster down to 53 – at least for now – Belichick chose not to make Ryan Mallett one his cuts. In doing so the Patriots appear poised to open the season with three quarterbacks for the first time since 2011, when Mallett himself was a rookie. Now he'll join rookie second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo as the two continue their battle for Tom Brady's backup.
"We have three good players at that position, three players we have a lot of confidence in," Belichick said of his quarterbacks. "I'm sure there are teams in the league that don't have that feeling, maybe about one. We're fortunate to have three good players there."
Aside from that decision, which wasn't really all that unexpected, Belichick stayed rather conventional with the rest of his moves. After all, the most surprising cut of the day had to be Danny Aiken, and anytime letting your long snapper go qualifies as the biggest surprise there weren't too many eyebrow-raising moves.
Running backs Roy Finch and Jonas Gray, wide receivers Josh Boyce and Jeremy Gallon, tight end Steve Maneri, fullback/linebacker Taylor McCuller, offensive linemen Braxston Cave, Jon Halapio and Chris Martin, defensive linemen L.T. Tuipulotu, Eathyn Manumaleuna, Jerel Worthy and Jake Bequette, linebackers Steve Beauharnais and Ja'Gared Davis and defensive backs Shamiel Gary, Daxton Swanson and Kanorris Davis all joined Aiken on the unemployment line. Rookie linebacker James Morris was placed on injured reserve while cornerback Brandon Browner and wide receiver Brian Tyms were moved to the reserve/suspended list while serving their four-game bans, at which point the Patriots will have the opportunity to add them to the roster.
The most noteworthy of the 19 bodies let go was Boyce, a fourth-round pick in 2013 who couldn't quite seem to establish any level of consistency. At times the TCU speedster looked to have some promise but inconsistent hands and route-running put him well behind the top five wideouts, and as result he found himself out of work.
Despite being limited for much of the preseason, Brandon Bolden managed to hold off challenges from youngsters Finch and Gray. Bolden's special teams play likely on him the spot, particularly over the diminutive Finch, who would only factor into the kicking game as a returner.
Belichick typically tinkers with his roster frequently in the days leading up to the opener, and beyond, so it's highly unlikely that he's done making moves. Cincinnati released running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the former Patriot could represent some insurance as a backup to Stevan Ridley.
If Belichick decided to make such a move it's possible he'll look to his offensive line to find a spot. The Patriots currently have 10 on the roster with Chris Barker and Jordan Devey likely representing the final two on the depth chart. Nine is a conventional number of offensive linemen teams typically keep, so it's possible Belichick will look in that direction if need be.
New England also will more than likely need to add a long snapper with Aiken's release. Rob Ninkovich is the team's backup but Belichick has generally preferred to have a specialist in that role and Ninkovich's status as a key starter on defense would seem to run counter to that philosophy.
"There are a lot of things that are potentially in transition," Belichick said when asked about the situation at long snapper. "I'm not saying they will or won't change. We're looking at different options. There are a lot of things we need to see between now and next Wednesday and we'll see how it all plays out. I'm not committing to anything."