The Patriots released five wide receivers Saturday but the biggest story on mandatory cut-down day centered around a receiver that’s still on the active roster.
Danny Amendola, who has missed all of camp and the exhibition season, was not placed on the reserve/PUP list, meaning he will start the season on the 53-man roster. The eight-year veteran begins his fourth campaign in New England on the heels of offseason knee and ankle surgeries.
Amendola has been a regular attendee at camp practices but hasn’t participated in anything other than team stretching. He had 65 receptions last season for 648 yards and 3 touchdowns. He added 23 punt returns for 276 yards.
Among the five receivers jettisoned were veterans Aaron Dobson, a second-round pick in 2013 who ends his disappointing three-year run with just 53 catches, and Keshawn Martin, who was acquired via trade last September and had 24 catches for 269 yards.
Additionally, Chris Harper, who made the club as a rookie free agent last season and yo-yoed between the active roster and the practice squad, was released. So, too, was Devin Lucien, a rookie seventh-round pick, who coincidentally was Harper’s high school teammate.
Both Martin (lower body) and Lucien (back) were dinged in the preseason finale against the Giants.
The final receiver cut was DeAndre Carter, who had spent time on the practice squad last season.
The moves leave the Patriots with a receiving corps of Amendola, Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, and rookie Malcolm Mitchell. Both Edelman (foot) and Mitchell (elbow) have missed time in camp with injuries.
The Patriots also elected to keep four tight ends with both A.J. Derby and Clay Harbor making the club behind starters Rob Gronkowski and Martellus Bennett.
Among the more surprising — but hardly stunning — cuts were defensive end Geneo Grissom, a third-round pick last season, and rookie linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, a sixth-round pick.
Grissom was buried on the depth chart behind Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long, and Trey Flowers. The 6-foot-2-inch, 220-pound Grugier-Hill is a bit of a hybrid linebacker/safety and is a special teams standout. He had some strong moments in camp.
Tyler Gaffney, who had an exceptional summer after two injury-lost seasons, was one of two running backs cut along with Joey Iosefa. Gaffney, who hurt his right foot against the Giants, likely was edged out by the strong surge made by rookie free agent D.J. Foster the last two weeks.
A mildly surprising cut was rookie free agent cornerback Cre’Von LeBlanc, who had made a strong case for a spot during the last few weeks. He was in a three-way battle for the fifth spot, a job that ultimately went to fellow rookie free agent Jonathan Jones. LeBlanc was hurt last week and missed the Giants game, which undoubtedly hurt his chances. Second-year player Darryl Roberts, the third candidate, was also released.
Other veterans cut included defensive tackles Markus Kuhn and Joe Vellano; linebackers Kevin Snyder and Rufus Johnson; safety Vinnie Sunseri; and guards Jon Halapio and Chris Barker.
Kuhn was in a hotly contested battle for a job but ultimately lost out to Anthony Johnson, the second-year player who has been immense the last two weeks. Johnson has flashed quickness and closing speed while consistently pressuring the pocket from the middle.
The remaining rookies released were defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton and tight end Bryce Williams. Both faced long odds as New England is stacked at both positions.
In addition to Foster, Mitchell, and Jonathan Jones, six other rookies made the team: Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, offensive linemen Joe Thuney and Ted Karras, cornerback Cyrus Jones, defensive lineman Vincent Valentine, and linebacker Elandon Roberts.
All the players released Saturday are practice squad eligible with the exception of Dobson, Martin, and Kuhn. Lucien, Grissom, Grugier-Hill, LeBlanc, Roberts, Barker, and Halapio would seem to be the strongest candidates to land there if they go unclaimed.
It’s also a strong possibility that the 53-man roster will be tweaked several times before the season opener Sept. 11 in Arizona, especially if Bill Belichick and his staff have their eyes on a recently released player.
Teams must make waiver claims by noon Sunday. Teams can then start filling out their practice squads.
Belichick spoke about the difficulty of cutting players who he’s worked with throughout the offseason program and training camp.
“It’s always hard. You bring 90 players to camp, and end up with 53. That’s 37 guys. Someway, somehow, you can’t keep [them all],’’ he said after Thursday’s game. “These guys have worked really hard; they’ve done everything that we’ve asked them to do. They’ve put a lot of sweat, a lot of effort into it, but we know the National Football League is very competitive. We all know what we signed up for. Personally, it’s tough, sure. It’s tough to tell a guy that you can’t be on the team when he did everything that you asked him to do. But, unfortunately, that’s the way it is.’’
Here’s the Patriots’ current 53-man roster, the PUP list, and the suspended list:
|Allen, Ryan||P||6-2||220||26||4||Louisiana Tech|
|Amendola, Danny||WR||5-11||190||30||8||Texas Tech|
|Bennett, Martellus||TE||6-6||275||29||8||Texas A&M|
|Brissett, Jacoby||QB||6-4||235||23||R||North Carolina State|
|Butler, Malcolm||CB||5-11||190||26||3||West Alabama|
|Cannon, Marcus||OL||6-5||335||28||6||Texas Christian|
|Collins, Jamie||LB||6-3||250||26||4||Southern Mississippi|
|Cooper, Jonathan||G||6-2||310||26||3||North Carolina|
|Ebner, Nate||DB||6-0||220||27||5||Ohio State|
|Edelman, Julian||WR||5-10||200||30||8||Kent State|
|Foster, D.J.||RB||6-0||195||22||R||Arizona State|
|Garoppolo, Jimmy||QB||6-2||225||24||3||Eastern Illinois|
|Harbor, Clay||TE||6-3||240||29||7||Missouri State|
|Hogan, Chris||WR||6-1||210||27||4||Monmouth (N.J.)|
|Kline, Josh||OL||6-3||300||26||4||Kent State|
|Mason, Shaq||OL||6-1||310||23||2||Georgia Tech|
|McClellin, Shea||WLB||6-3||250||27||5||Boise State|
|Thuney, Joe||G||6-5||295||23||R||North Carolina State|
|Waddle, LaAdrian||OL||6-6||315||25||4||Texas Tech|
|Jackson, Tre||G||6-4||320||23||2||Florida State|