It's not unusual for teams to continue tweaking the roster in the week before the first game as all 32 teams release and sign players at a frenzied pace to prepare for the opener. But it is surprising when a team releases a four-time Pro Bowl safety and team captain as the Patriots did Tuesday morning when they announced Lawyer Milloy, 29, was cut.
Milloy played seven seasons in New England and totaled 846 tackles, seven sacks, 19 interceptions, 12 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries. He led the team in tackles in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001. He also was a huge part of two AFC Championship teams and one Super Bowl winner.
Milloy went to his first Pro Bowl in 1998 starting a string of four all-star appearances in five years, including 2002, and was the first Patriots safety selected to the Pro Bowl since Fred Marion in 1985.
He was a mark of durability during his career in New England playing in all 112 professional games with 106 consecutive starts. He was first voted a team captain in 1999 and was subsequently voted as a captain in each of the next three seasons.
The Patriots were negotiating to reduce Milloy's cap hit for this season, but obviously could not reach an agreement. Milloy's cap number for 2003 was scheduled to be in $5.8 million range, but since his release came after June 1, the Patriots can spread out his accelerated cap hit (around $5.6 million) over two seasons with about $1.4 million coming this year and $4.2 million next year in the form of dead money.
Milloy's salary, according to the NFLPA, jumped from $525,000 in 2002 to $4.4 million in 2003 in what was the fourth year of what was originally a seven-year, $35 million. That original contract had two tiers with the first a four-year $15 million portion that included $6 million up front. After the fourth season, the Patriots held an option to pick up the remaining three years for $20 million with a $2 million bonus payment.
The safeties on the roster who could replace the 6-0, 210-pound Milloy in the starting lineup are Aric Morris, Chris Akins and Antwan Harris.