Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots have once again shown the rest of the NFL why they are willing to make any move in order to win. That includes cutting veterans and players who started on the team just last season. Among Thursday’s roster cuts were WR Deion Branch, QB Brian Hoyer, OL Dan Koppen, S Sergio Brown and S James Ihedigbo, and roster long shots LB Aaron Lavarias and DB Derrick Martin. Koppen is the only one to not have been formerly released, with the team announcing the 9 p.m. roster deadline as the waiting period until releasing him if it can’t find a team to deal him to. The releases of Branch, Hoyer, and Koppen certainly come as surprises, especially Deion’s given the fact that Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney were cut presumably to award the third wideout slot to him. Hoyer’s release can be reasoned out, with Ryan Mallet’s impressive preseason work topping the former backup’s. Mallet’s arm strength is also to be considered a contributing factor, given the potential it has to be developed into a lethal strike-thrower. The team now will carry just two QBs. Koppen’s, however, perhaps comes as puzzling as Branch’s, especially given the fact the offensive line struggled immensely during the preseason. One would think the Pats would want to have as much experience as they could on the front line to protect Tom Brady, but clearly Koppen was beyond his better seasons with the team. Still, his release leaves an already thin offensive thinner. Similarly, Branch’s thins out the WR core, with Julian Edelman and Matthew Slater rounding out the team’s top four pass catchers.
So why would the Patriots seemingly make their team weaker with these cuts? To put it simply, every team has to make sacrifices when cutting down rosters, and the 20-player move from 73 to 53 certainly requires some challenging decision-making. I’m sure Belichick had trouble parting ways with these guys, but clearly he feels it’s what’s best for his football team or else he wouldn’t have made the moves. Some Pats fans may be angry, but I must remind you that this is the man who assembles 10-plus win teams every year even without arguably the greatest QB ever under center for him. He is also arguably the best ever as far as head coaches go, so we should rest easy. It is a business, after all, and the Pats are the most professional team in the league when it comes to making these kinds of moves. They also have the capability to surprise people and reacquire players they once released due to their availability on the market. I think this is a realistic avenue for them to pursue with Branch, especially given his comfort level with Brady, experience playing with the team, and general understanding of the offense. Even if they don’t pick him up, however, the team will be just fine. “The Hoodie” has a plan, I assure you; he always does.