When the Patriots agreed to terms on a new contract with Tedy Bruschi, it meant someone had to go to clear enough salary cap space to make the signing official. That happened Thursday when the Patriots announced Bruschi's signing along with the release of starting right tackle and 11-year veteran Zefross Moss, freeing up about $1 million against the cap.
Moss' release means that 60 percent of last year's starting offensive line is gone, including both the starting tackles, the starting left guard (Heath Irwin) and 28 years of NFL experience. Thirteen-year veteran Left tackle Bruce Armstrong was cut back on Feb. 11 when he refused to take a pay cut.
The Patriots recent free agent activity pointed toward Moss' termination. Last week, the team signed 26-year old Grant Williams, who started 15 games at right tackle for the Seattle Seahawks last season after being pressed into the lineup due to injury.
Williams' signing, the limited cap space and the ongoing negotiations with Bruschi pointed toward Moss' release. Also, since Moss was entering the final year of his contract, the Patriots could cut him without feeling any salary cap implications in the future.
This latest move leaves the Patriots tackle jobs up for grabs. Williams apparently is a natural left tackle, but Max Lane has spent the last three seasons on the left side learning that footwork while at guard. He did, however, spend his first three seasons with the Patriots at right tackle. Ed Ellis, who is spending the spring in NFL Europe, could also factor into the mix at either tackle position as could Jason Andersen. The competition could still change especially if Armstrong re-signs with the team. Also, the Patriots could address the offensive line with a high draft pick, further changing any premature scenarios. If Lane is moved from his guard spot, Todd Rucci, Derrick Fletcher, Andersen and Ellis could factor into the mix as well as any future free agent signing or draft pick.
Moss spent three seasons in New England and started 42 of 48 games during that time while proving to be a reliable blocker both in the running game and in pass protection. In fact, in 1997, the Patriots averaged 5.3 yards per carry running to the right side and averaged 5 yards per carry in 1998 going in that direction.
Before signing as a free agent with the Patriots, Moss spent two seasons blocking for Barry Sanders in Detroit and six seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent with the Dallas Cowboys back in 1988, but was eventually traded to the Colts for a 10th round draft pick.