Jonathan Fanene was signed by the Patriots as a free agent in March, brought in to add depth and versatility to the defensive line, and was thought of highly enough that he received a $3.85 million bonus just to sign a three-year contract.
Fanene can keep the signing bonus, but he is not among the team’s plans anymore, the Patriots cutting the 30-year-old Tuesday in a slightly surprising move. Offensive lineman Kyle Hill and kicker Chris Koepplin were also released.
Fanene suffered a knee injury early in training camp and had not practiced at all in August; according to a league source, he was dealing with an inflammatory ailment, possibly arthritis.
Fanene spent his first seven seasons in the NFL with Cincinnati, registering 6½ sacks last season and 6 in 2009.
“It just didn’t work out,” coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday during a conference call. “I don’t really think there’s much to add than that. It just didn’t work out.”
The Patriots terminated Fanene’s contract, making him a free agent.
Koepplin, who played two seasons at UMass, was always considered expendable, assuming Stephen Gostkowski remains healthy.
The Patriots flew to Tampa Tuesday and will participate in joint practices with the Buccaneers Wednesday and Thursday before the teams meet in an exhibition game Friday. It’s the second time the Patriots have chosen to spend valuable practice time with another NFL team; the Saints shared the field before they faced the Patriots at Gillette Stadium Aug. 9.
Safe to say that Belichick supports the joint exercises?
“I wouldn’t characterize myself as an advocate of it,” he said. “I just think that as a coach you try to do what’s best for your team. I’ve talked to a lot of teams about doing something along the lines of what we’ve done this year. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. It has to be mutually beneficial.
“If it doesn’t work, then I would prefer not to do it, rather than do it and solve one problem but create two other ones down the line. The drawbacks of it are if it doesn’t work, then you’d be doing more harm than good.”
Center of attention
Because of injuries last year, the Patriots were forced to play four different offensive linemen at the center position: Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Nick McDonald, and Ryan Wendell. Four got reps there against the Eagles: Wendell started, but Koppen, McDonald, and Donald Thomas also saw time. By design.
“Part of what we look for in the offensive line are some players who have position flexibility, and also there’s competition for that starting center position,” Belichick said. “We had four guys play it last year and they all did a pretty good job. We’ve also worked Donald in there a little bit to give him some flexibility from playing the two guard spots.
“So it’s a combination of all those things — competition for the position, and also for flexibility for guys to play multiple positions so they can increase their value to our overall team.”
Specialists in place
With Koepplin’s release, the Patriots have the same three specialists that played in every regular-season and playoff game last season: long snapper Danny Aiken, punter Zoltan Mesko, and Gostkowski.
Mesko punted six times against the Eagles for a 47.0-yard average, and pulled down a high snap by Aiken on one of Gostkowski’s three field goals. Gostkowski also drilled a 55-yarder.
“I think the continuity between those specialists and the rapport that they have and the time that they work together and the quality of their work is good, and I think that it shows up in their performance,” Belichick said. “Hopefully we can continue to work that group together on a consistent basis and let them develop individually, but also together with their timing and their execution.’’
Line help on deck
It will be interesting to see if and when offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer returns to the field. He was taken off the physically unable to perform list recently, but didn’t play against the Eagles. Neither did fellow lineman Logan Mankins, who also was recently taken off the PUP list and returned to practice last week . . . Fans are also eager to get a look at Jeff Demps, a running back/kick returner signed last week. Demps played his college ball at Florida, and recently competed in the London Olympics, winning a silver medal in the 4 x 100-meter relay . . . Belichick had no update on Patrick Chung, who left Monday’s game with what the team said was a shoulder injury . . . With the three cuts Tuesday, the Patriots’ roster is at 85 players; teams must get down to 75 by Monday at 4 p.m. . . . Offensive lineman Kyle Hix, who was released before Monday’s game, was not claimed on waivers, and has been placed on injured reserve.Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.