The Patriots cut down their final roster to the league mandated 53 players tonight, and the cut-down didn't come without its fair share of surprises.
The team released 20 players; defensive backs Sergio Brown, Ross Ventrone, and DeAngelo Willingham; linebackers Pierre Woods, Thomas Williams, Eric Alexander, and Derrick Burgess; tight ends Carson Butler and Rob Myers; running backs Chris Taylor and Thomas Clayton; offensive linemen Thomas Welch, Ted Larsen, George Bussey, and Rich Ohrnberger; wide receivers Darnell Jenkins, Buddy Farnham, Sam Aiken, and Rod Owens; as well as quarterback Zac Robinson. Safety Brandon McGowan was placed on injured reserve with a chest injury.
The Patriots also acquired two players. The team traded an undisclosed 2011 draft choice for Chiefs safety Jarrad Page. Page was a starting safety for the Chiefs from 2007 through 2009, although he missed most of last season due to injury (5 games). In 2008, his most recent full season as a starter, he recorded 85 tackles and four interceptions. The Patriots likely traded for Page to make up for the loss of Brandon McGowan for the season. Page will likely play that same in-the-box role, and seems like a solid player. I should note that Page just recently signed his one year restricted free agent tender with the Chiefs, and was looking to be traded. There has been no indication whether or not the Patriots intend to sign Page to an extension.
The Patriots also acquired ninth year linebacker Tracy White from the Eagles. The Eagles were reportedly going to release White, so I can't imagine the compensation is going to be too great. In 16 games last season, White, who has also played for the Packers, Jaguars and the Seahawks, recorded 35 tackles and one interception. White will likely be an impact special teams player for the Patriots.
The biggest surprise has got to be the release of defensive end/outside linebacker Derrick Burgess. Burgess had been starting with the 1st team since he returned to the team in mid-August. While he hadn't looked impressive, he still was starting, and after all, he was welcomed back pretty openly after considering retirement at the beginning of training camp. With Burgess as well as Pierre Woods out of the picture, the Patriots have Tully Banta-Cain, Marques Murrell, Ron Ninkovich, and Jermaine Cunningham left at the outside linebacker position. While they seem thin there, rookie Jermaine Cunningham may be ready to come back this week, according to Ian Rapoport.
The Patriots also parted ways with several key special teams players in Pierre Woods, Eric Alexander, and Sam Aiken. It's a little surprising that none of the three made the final roster, but the Patriots have been developing young talent in the special teams phase of the game.
The Patriots also seem to be a little bit thin along the offensive line with the team's releases today. Gone are Rich Ohrnberger, Thomas Welch, George Bussey, and Ted Larsen. With those four out, the Patriots will only have seven lineman on their opening day roster; starters Matt Light, Dan Connolly, Dan Koppen, Stephen Neal, and Sebastian Vollmer, as well as Ryan Wendell and Mark LeVoir coming off the bench.
There were also a handful of players that were mild surprises to stick to the roster. The Patriots kept two rookie free agents: nose tackle Kyle Love and linebacker Dane Fletcher. While many, including myself, felt the Patriots would go with four running backs, they decided to keep five for the second straight season, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis making the final roster. Also notable is the presence of offensive lineman Nick Kaczur on the final roster. Apparently, the Patriots must think that Kaczur has a good chance of returning to the team at some point this season.
I would also expect a few players that the Patriots released to land on the practice squad if/when they clear waivers. Such players include the likes of Sergio Brown, Ted Larsen, Rob Myers, Darnell Jenkins, Buddy Farnham, and Zac Robinson, among others.