New England cut three players and re-signed another, giving wide receivers Charles Johnson and Curtis Jackson and cornerback Terrance Shaw their walking papers Monday, while bringing back exclusive rights free agent Jace Sayler.
By cutting Johnson and Shaw, who were both left exposed in the Houston expansion draft, the Patriots saved nearly $4 million on the 2002 salary cap. Brought in to compete for starting jobs, both Shaw and Johnson saw their New England careers start off slow. Both players contributed, but not as much as they would have liked.
Shaw, signed in March, played 13 games and had three starts. He came in hoping to win a starting job after playing as Miami's nickel back in 2000. A shoulder injury early in camp caused him to fall behind reserves Terrell Buckley and rookie Leonard Myers early in the season, but he did come on as the season went along, getting 22 tackles and four passes defensed, in addition to five special teams tackles.
Shaw's play created more opportunities down the stretch, and when New England played a lot of dime defense in the Super Bowl against St. Louis he saw a lot of time. However, with starters Ty Law and Otis Smith in place and Myers, Ben Kelly and 2001 third-round pick Brock Williams waiting in the wings, Shaw was on the outs. Buckley, an unrestricted free agent, also may not return.
By cutting Shaw, the Patriots saved about $3.005 million against the cap. Letting Johnson go saved about $700,000.
A strong addition to the locker room, Johnson had a disappointing season on the field, posting career-lows of 14 catches and 133 receiving yards with just one touchdown. In seven seasons before coming to New England he never had less than 34 catches or 414 yards in a season. After a season-best two catches for 44 yards and a touchdown in Week 11 against New Orleans he did not make another catch in the postseason. His two starts were also a career-low.
Jackson spent parts of the last two seasons on the active roster and practice squad with the Patriots. In 2000 he started two of the five games he played and caught five passes for 44 yards. He had two catches for 16 yards last season.
The Patriots have bodies at the receiver spot, but the talent is not deep beyond Troy Brown and David Patten. The Terry Glenn situation is murky, and the remainder of the corps consists of Fred Coleman, Jimmy Farris and Scott McCready.
Sayler, an undrafted rookie out of Michigan State, was the first non-drafted rookie to start on opening day since wide receiver Will Moore did so in 1995. He played two games, with one start, and had two tackles before going on injured reserve on Oct. 5.