For two straight weeks, the New England Patriots were practicing one man down.

After releasing offensive lineman Tony Weathersby on Christmas Eve, the Patriots never replaced him on their practice squad. That’s unlike them, but there also might be a method to their madness.

On Tuesday, the Patriots signed tight end Stephen Anderson off and offensive tackle Dan Skipper and defensive back A.J. Howard onto their practice squad. They now have a full 53-man roster and 10-man practice squad.

Skipper previously was with the Denver Broncos, and Howard most recently was on the New York Giants. And neither player was ever released.

After a team’s season is over, teams can sign practice squad players to future contracts. That didn’t happen with Skipper and Howard.

Apparently — and we just learned this — if a player was on a non-playoff team and doesn’t get signed to a future contract, he becomes a free agent open to be signed by a team still playing. So, the Patriots waited until the pool of potential practice squad players expanded before filling out their scout team. Smart.

Skipper, at 6-foot-10, is the tallest player in the NFL.

Skipper, Howard, quarterback Danny Etling, wide receiver Damoun Patterson, offensive linemen Tony Adams and Cole Croston, defensive end Trent Harris, defensive tackle Frank Herron, linebacker Calvin Munson and cornerback Jomal Wiltz make up the Patriots’ current practice squad. Etling, Harris and Wiltz were on the practice squad for the entire season.

Thumbnail photo via Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports Images