Bill Belichick turned some heads with his recent cuts, as the Patriots parted ways with a few players who many New England fans expected to be in the fold when the Pats kick off Week 1. Among those cut were three wide receivers (Deion Branch, Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth), a solid backup quarterback (Brian Hoyer) and a former Pro Bowl center (Dan Koppen).
The trio of receivers were expected to battle for the team’s No. 3 wideout spot behind Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, so when all of them were let go, it was somewhat of a head-scratcher. Pats fans have learned not to question Belichick’s wisdom, though, and New England went out and acquired Greg Salas from the St. Louis Rams.
Even with the additon of Salas, there’s some who would probably welcome back one or more of the recently cut receivers. Branch has developed plenty of chemistry with Tom Brady over the years, and both Gaffney and Stallworth have proven to be productive NFL players.
Branch, who reportedly wants to return to New England, caught 51 passes for 702 yards and five touchdowns last season. The veteran had 48 catches for 706 yards and five TDs in 11 games after getting traded back to the Patriots the season before.
Gaffney thrived in Washington last season, becoming the team’s top target despite its inconsistent quarterback play. He totaled 68 catches, 947 yards and five touchdowns. Stallworth also played for the Redskins, and while his 2012 numbers weren’t as impressive, he still has good speed, making him a big play threat.
The Patriots’ cuts weren’t limited to receivers, though, and Hoyer’s release was also interesting. It’s not something that will have an immediate impact, but the move shows that the Patriots are confident in Ryan Mallett‘s ability. Hoyer could have had some trade value, as there are plenty of teams who would love to add a bona fide backup QB.
In another surprising move, the Patriots cut Koppen, who was a Pro Bowler in 2007. He played in just one game last season, but Koppen had been a mainstay on New England’s offensive line since 2003.
There’s certainly a method to Belichick’s madness, but if you could have a mulligan, which recently cut Patriots player would you like to see return?