Teams have to trim their rosters down to just 75 players by Tuesday, and the Patriots got a head start on their cuts on Monday.
The Patriots released wide receiver Kamar Aiken, linebacker Niko Koutouvides, cornerback LeQuan Lewis and undrafted rookies, cornerback Brandon Jones and longsnapper Mike Zupancic. While the Patriots thinned out at some positions, they also add depth at a few others, re-signing rookie cornerback Stephon Morris and rookie defensive lineman Scott Vallone.
Adding Morris and Vallone will benefit the Patriots as they enter the final week of the preseason, providing some depth at cornerback (where Ras-I Dowling and Alfonzo Dennard are still dealing with injuries) and along the defensive line. The big news of the day, though, is the release of Aiken and Koutouvides.
Aiken was a star during the offseason, showing impressive chemistry with Tom Brady and an exceptional understanding of the Patriots’ offense. His stock fell significantly preseason, though, as rookies Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson have all jumped ahead of him on the receiver depth chart. The third-year receiver also caught just two passes for 23 yards in three games this preseason.
Koutouvides was the other somewhat surprising cut on the day. The nine-year veteran has been with the Patriots since 2011 and played in 14 games with the team last season. He is a depth option at linebacker but holds great value on special teams. Zupancic had already been cut once earlier in training camp, and was brought back when spots on the 90-man roster began to open up, but Danny Aiken will be the team’s regular longsnapper. Neither Jones or Lewis showed much during camp, and rookie Justin Green has looked better than both of them this preseason.
The Patriots also announced that they placed rookie defensive lineman Cory Grissom, who suffered an ankle injury against the Lions, and second-year offensive tackle Markus Zusevics on injured reserve. They also moved first-year defensive lineman Armond Armstead and rookie wide receiver Mark Harrison to the reserve/non-football injury list, making them ineligible to return to the team until Week 6.
The Patriots’ roster is currently at 77 players, so they’ll need to make at least two more roster moves before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline.