MONDAY, 12:37pm: In addition confirming the releases below, the Patriots have announced the release of TE Justin Jones via press release.
SUNDAY, 4:53PM: As other NFL teams part ways with a slew of young, inexperienced players as Tuesday’s 3pm cutdown date approaches, the Patriots have taken a different tack, releasing veteran defensive lineman Will Smith and Tommy Kelly, reports Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Per Schefter, New England has also cut linebacker James Anderson.
The Pats added Smith, 32, on a one-year deal ($65K bonus) in May, after the veteran had spent his entire 10-year career with the Saints. I noted at the time of his signing that landing in New England’s versatile defensive scheme might be an ideal landing spot for Smith, who had noted he was open to playing in either a 3-4 or 4-3 front. However, Mike Reiss of ESPN.com tweets that Smith was not fitting in as a 3-4 defensive end, noting that he hadn’t received the opportunity to rush from the edge.
Kelly, 33, joined the Patriots on a two-year deal prior to last season after spending the prior nine years in Oakland. He tore his ACL in Week 8, and spent the remainder of the season on IR. Kelly restructured his contract in March, turning some of his base salary into incentive-based and roster bonus pay, so his release doesn’t come as a total surprise. In fact, back in July, Reiss had predicted the Pats would eventually cut Kelly.
Anderson, 30, started 16 games for the Bears last season, but remained on the free agent market until New England signed him in June. Anderson had been working mostly as a coverage linebacker — Pro Football Focus (subscription required) graded him as the sixth-best 4-3 OLB in terms of pass coverage last season. As Reiss writes (Twitter link), the Pats were probably looking for more special teams ability out of their reserve linebacker position.
According to Brian McIntyre (Twitter links), the Patriots will save $3.565MM in cash this season by releasing the three players. Smith and Anderson were each due a $50K bonus if they were on New England’s Week 1 roster, while Kelly was entitled to $800K in per game active roster bonuses.