The Patriots trimmed their roster down to the 53-man limit Saturday and as is typically the case, there were a couple of changeups thrown in. The most noteworthy move was the release of veteran safety Brandon Meriweather.
Reports throughout the day indicated the Patriots tried to deal the two-time Pro Bowler but were unsuccessful and decided to simply part ways. On the surface the move is not that surprising. He was on the field throughout the second half of the preseason opener against the Giants Thursday night, long after the starters and other front-line players had retired to the sideline. Also, the Patriots expressed interest in several veteran safeties throughout the summer even though they didn't add any.
But with fellow veteran James Sanders' release earlier in the week, coupled with a lack of experienced depth at the position, letting Meriweather go seems risky. Envisioning a veteran addition (Darren Sharper worked out for the team last month) is not difficult at this point. Sammy Morris, a 12th-year veteran entering his fifth with the Patriots, was also let go. His agent, Mark Slough, tweeting the information in the afternoon, citing his client's classy nature. Morris' release comes as no surprise with rookies Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen getting into the mix. Kevin Faulk (knee), another long-time veteran entering his 13th season, will open the year on PUP while serving as a mentor to the two kids.
Joining Meriweather and Morris on the unemployment line this evening are wide receivers Brandon Tate and Tiquan Underwood, linebacker Niko Koutouvides, defensive linemen Landon Cohen, Alex Silvestro, Markell Carter, Aaron Lavarias and Eric Moore, running back Eric Kettani, offensive lineman Thomas Austin, tight ends Lee Smith and Will Yeatman and safety Ross Ventrone. Defensive linemen Ron Brace (elbow) and Brandon Deaderick (shoulder) will join Faulk on PUP to start the season, while offensive lineman Rich Ohrnberger was placed on injured reserve after suffering an apparent concussion against the Giants.
The annual undrafted rookie to stick is linebacker Jeff Tarpinian. The rookie out of Iowa struggled with injuries during the preseason but evidently showed enough for a longer look. Also, cornerback Antwaun Molden, who was claimed off waivers Wednesday, sticks around at least for now. With a dearth of experience at safety, perhaps Molden could be a candidate to move from corner with his size.
Of the remainder of the group of cuts, Tate is the biggest name of that group, but not exactly a surprise. His inability to establish himself as a receiver, coupled with Taylor Price's development in that regard, left no room for the 2009 third-round pick. Tate had a nice start to his 2010 as a kickoff returner, taking two to the house in the first four weeks, but ultimately fizzled in that department and was a non-factor by season's end. And with the new kickoff rules his role as a returner doesn't seem as important anyway.
Moore showed some promise last season when he arrived late yet still made an impact with a pair of sacks over the final four games. He opened camp with the first group at defensive end in the new-look 4-3, but as veterans Andre Carter and Mark Anderson were signed and Mike Wright returned from injury, Moore got caught in a numbers game and is out of work.
Neither Yeatman nor Smith, both rookies, could earn the third tight end spot, at least initially. Look for at least one of them to return to the practice squad. It appeared Yeatman, an undrafted free agent, may have done enough to win the blocking role but with spots at a premium it's possible Belichick decided to use tackles Steve Maneri or Nate Solder, both converted college tight ends, as the extra blocker.
It's also a distinct possibility that Alge Crumpler could return at some point once his shoulder is fully recovered from offseason surgery.