Just one day after saying that he wanted to play nose tackle Giradie Mercer more in Saturday's win over the Carolina Panthers, Bill Belichick cut the second-year lineman.
In responding to a question about nose tackles Garrett Johnson and Jace Sayler, Belichick said, "They both got a lot of reps [against Carolina] and we really wanted to play Giradie Mercer a little more than we did, but we only had four plays on defense in the fourth quarter so we kind of got squeezed out there."
Today, it was Mercer who was squeezed out even after the Patriots missed a chance to add seven-year veteran defensive tackle Mike Wells, who was cut by the Bears for salary cap purposes. Wells, who is from Missouri and played collegiately at Iowa, reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots had interest in Wells, but he turned down their offer to stay in the Midwest.
Unless a roster addition is on the horizon, it can be deemed mildly surprising to see Mercer get cut after limited opportunities with the Patriots. He has only been with the Patriots for three weeks and no mandatory cuts are due until Aug. 28. Mercer did not record a tackle in either of the Patriots preseason games and the limited fourth-quarter defensive snaps affected his playtime in Carolina. In fact, the Patriots defense was only on the field for 1:40 of the fourth quarter in that game.
"Giradie is a young guy," Belichick said Sunday. "He is a little shorter, but he has real strong legs, has good quickness and has played well laterally when he has had an opportunity."
Mercer, 25, was claimed off waivers from the Philadelphia Eagles on July 31. The 6-2, 285-pound nose tackle originally signed with the Carolina Panthers as a rookie free agent out of Marshall following the 2000 NFL draft. He was released by the Panthers and signed by the Philadelphia Eagles on July 19, 2000. He suffered an injury in the Eagles' second preseason game at Baltimore on Aug. 5, 2000 and was placed on injured reserve for the remainder of his rookie season.
That leaves the Patriots with only Johnson and Sayler at that position. The move may indicate Belichick's satisfaction with the early play of both players.
"Jace is doing a good job," Belichick said. "He is a strong kid. He has shown up a little bit on the pass rush. Garrett has a little bit more experience, recognizes things and may be hair quicker right now."
Sayler is a rookie free agent out of Michigan State and Johnson is a former rookie free agent originally signed by the Patriots after the 1999 draft.