There was always speculation that Sanders wouldn't play out his contract, and that came to a reality Monday when the Patriots parted ways with the six-year veteran. Sanders, who told ESPN he was shocked by the news, was set to earn a 2011 base salary of $2.8 million. Clearly, his reliability was not an indispensible as it seemed, and he might have been doomed by a hamstring injury that hampered him throughout training camp.
Sanders' consistency was his greatest asset in recent seasons, and he was viewed as the veteran leader in the defensive backfield. After Sanders' game-clinching interception against the Colts last season, field microphones heard head coach Bill Belichick tell him he made "a championship play."
The timing of the move is even more surprising because the Patriots haven't been terribly impressed by Brandon Meriweather, who had a difficult start to training camp before improving a bit over the last week. The Patriots have also courted a number of well-known safeties, including Darren Sharper.
Sanders’ release means Patrick Chung and Meriweather will be the fulltime starters, and Sergio Brown will be their third-string option. James Ihedigbo and Josh Barrett are also candidates to make the team.
The Patriots have also released wide receiver Tyree Barnes, who just completed a two-year tour as a Naval officer. Reports have indicated the Patriots have also cut wide receiver Darnell Jenkins and defensive lineman Clay Nurse.