Banta-Cain had abdominal surgery Friday, according to multiple reports, and he is expected to miss four or five weeks of action. If that's the case, he'll be back on the field by Sept. 1, which is two days before teams must trim their rosters to 53 players, assuming the league reaches labor peace in short order.
Banta-Cain will enter the second season of a three-year deal that will reportedly pay him as much as $19 million, but he'll need to improve upon a 2010 campaign in which he only notched five sacks — half of his career-high total from 2009. Even still, he recorded about 14 percent of the Patriots' 36 sacks last season.
The developments could force the Patriots to be a little more active in free agency while courting outside linebackers. One potential target could be Matt Roth, who spent his last two seasons with the Browns after five seasons with the Dolphins.
In house, the Patriots still have Jermaine Cunningham, Rob Ninkovich, Eric Moore and sixth-round draft pick Markell Carter. Cunningham should be expected to be a starter, while Ninkovich would have challenged Banta-Cain for the other starting position. Moore and Carter figure to be situational pass rushers, and Banta-Cain might join that rotation when he comes back.
However, this late injury could push Banta-Cain closer to the roster bubble if other players step up in his absence, particularly during an abbreviated training camp.
The situation is hardly ideal — for the Patriots or Banta-Cain — but at the end of the day, it might not have a strong effect on anything at all.