fb-pixel Skip to main content
Brian Hoyer didn’t play a snap in the third or fourth exhibition game.
Brian Hoyer didn’t play a snap in the third or fourth exhibition game.BARRY CHIN/GLOBE STAFF/Globe Staff

Training camp is a long, hot, six-week grind. Players live away from their families for a few weeks, spend upward of 12 hours per day at the football facility, and have every waking movement judged by their teams.

And in a flash, it all ends.

The Patriots and every other NFL team cut their rosters from 90 to 53 players on Saturday afternoon. The Patriots made several interesting decisions, including a couple of semi-surprising cuts.

Let’s take a look:

■  The most interesting move came at quarterback, where the Patriots released Brian Hoyer, leaving rookie fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham as the only backup to Tom Brady.


Hoyer has been a solid backup the last two seasons, and his coaches and teammates have a ton of respect for him.

“I love Brian Hoyer, and Brian’s been great for us, great for Tom,” offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said this past week. “As good a leader as I’ve seen as a backup quarterback that I’ve been around. Brian understands who he is and what his role is, and does a tremendous job of pushing his teammates.”

But Hoyer’s value came in the offseason, when the Patriots needed a veteran quarterback to lead the team while Brady stayed away. Bill Belichick hasn’t kept three quarterbacks on his Week 1 roster since 2011, and again chose to use the roster spot elsewhere. The only time Belichick even kept three quarterbacks under his control was 2016, when Brady was suspended for the first four weeks.

Hoyer, 33, didn’t play a snap in either the third or fourth preseason game. Sitting out the third game was the kiss of death for Tim Tebow in 2013, Ryan Mallett in 2014, and Jacoby Brissett in 2017, and was again for Hoyer.

■  The Patriots are releasing Hoyer even though he has $1.51 million in guaranteed base salary. But it has offset language, so if he signs with another team — the Broncos reportedly are already interested — the Patriots would only owe the difference. If Hoyer signs for more than $1.51 million, they would owe him nothing. His minimum salary this year is $1.03 million.


The Patriots obviously felt confident that there isn’t much drop-off between Hoyer and Stidham. If Brady goes down, Hoyer probably isn’t saving the season, so you might as well get Stidham the game action.

■  However, I’m surprised that the Patriots weren’t able to trade Hoyer, given that his $2.8 million salary is more than reasonable for a veteran, backup quarterback.

The Broncos, Colts, Packers, and Lions all could use upgrades on the depth chart, and Hoyer may not be out of work for long.

It’s certainly possible that, out of respect for Hoyer, the Patriots simply released him to allow him to hand-pick his next destination.

Meanwhile, the Patriots did the same thing with Stidham and Hoyer that they did with Jimmy Garoppolo and Mallett in 2014 — wait until the end of training camp to make sure the rookie can handle himself before getting rid of the veteran.

■  The Patriots did keep six receivers, but the final choice was not the one fans were expecting. Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, and Josh Gordon were locks, while Phillip Dorsett and undrafted rookie Jakobi Meyers were virtual locks by the final preseason game. But veteran Demaryius Thomas was released late in the afternoon, and the Patriots reversed course on undrafted rookie Gunner Olszewski, first telling him that he was released, then calling back and telling him, “Never mind, you’re a Patriot.”


This move is surprising because of Thomas’s bigger profile, but I wrote last week that I had my doubts about him making the team. Thomas is coming off an Achilles’ injury, and the Patriots would have had to guarantee his entire $1.2 million salary if he made the Week 1 roster (Tuesday at 4 p.m.). Olszewski, meanwhile, will play for the minimum $495,000 salary, can return punts to give Edelman a break, and can play defense, too.

■  Thomas walks away with $300,000, but the Patriots can always bring him back. Thomas’s entire $1.2 million salary will be guaranteed if he’s on the team by 4 p.m. Tuesday, but if the Patriots bring him back afterward, they can pay him week-to-week without worrying about guarantees.

McDaniels, who drafted Thomas in Denver, raved about him this past week.

“He works extremely hard, and [has] been a great influence on our entire offensive group, not just the receivers,” McDaniels said. “This guy’s got a lot of knowledge, and he’s played a lot of important games and he’s won a lot of big games and made a lot of great plays. He’s a pretty decorated player.”

■  One reason why it can be a fool’s errand to put too much stock into training camp practices: We spent six weeks debating Dan Skipper and James Ferentz and Ted Karras, then the Patriots go out and completely retool their offensive line in the final week of the preseason, trading for center Russell Bodine, tackle Korey Cunningham, and guard Jermaine Eluemunor.


A lot of the moves were precipitated by injury. They acquired Bodine from the Bills after David Andrews was hospitalized with blood clots in his lungs. Hjalte Froholdt suffered a season-ending shoulder injury Thursday night, making Eluemunor more valuable. But the Patriots clearly didn’t like what they had at backup tackle, and swung the trade for Cunningham to provide better depth behind Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon. Skipper, who looked like he was competing for the starting left tackle job, was released on Saturday and is now a practice squad candidate.

■  Meanwhile, Andrews is officially done for the year and not eligible to return from injured reserve. This is a tough blow, and one that could throw a serious wrench into the Patriots’ offense, similar to Edelman’s torn ACL in the 2017 preseason.

Andrews has been extremely durable and reliable the last three seasons, and knows how to make all the calls and set the protections. And in today’s NFL, the center is arguably just as important as the left tackle. The Patriots will be scrambling to make it work now with Bodine and Karras. Dante Scarnecchia will earn his paycheck this season.

■  Yes, it is good that Belichick doesn’t get attached to his high draft picks, and that he’s willing to accept a sunk cost and move on. But it would be much better if Belichick could start hitting on second-round picks.


The Patriots didn’t just draft cornerback Duke Dawson in the second round last year, they traded up to do so. But his rookie season began with an injury, he couldn’t supplant seventh-round pick Keion Crossen and undrafted free agent J.C. Jackson on the depth chart, then couldn’t make any headway in his second season.

Belichick’s most recent second-round picks (prior to this year) are Dawson, Cyrus Jones, and Jordan Richards.


Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin