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Did the Patriots cut LB Tony Steward to open a roster spot for a veteran free agent signing?

The New England Patriots cut a player to free up a roster spot. Here's why.

Yesterday, the Patriots cut linebacker Tony Steward and opened up one roster spot. New England currently has 88 players under contract, with rookie third round pick Jacoby Brissett still negotiating his contract. The final spot is possibly for a veteran free agent.

May 12th marks the first date where free agents can sign without counting against a team's compensatory pick calculations for 2017, per Pro Football Talk. 2017 will mark the first year that teams can trade compensatory picks, meaning their value has greatly increased.

Over the Cap does not project the Patriots to receive any compensatory picks in 2017. The loss of defensive tackle Akiem Hicks and safety Tavon Wilson are canceled out by the additions of linebacker Shea McClellin, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, and tight end Clay Harbor. That's one of the downfalls of having very few key free agents.

The Patriots shouldn't have felt restricted from signing the veterans on the market because it wouldn't impact their (lack of) compensatory selections in 2017, but perhaps head coach Bill Belichick has a trick up his sleeve. It's just as likely that the Patriots are looking to sign another undrafted free agent rookie.

But there are plenty of viable veterans that no longer count against the compensatory math. Here are a few that could interest the Patriots.

49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin

Bengals cornerback Leon Hall

Bills defensive tackle Alex Carrington

Buccaneers defensive tackle Henry Melton

Chiefs wide receiver Jason Avant

Cowboys defensive tackle Nick Hayden

Eagles defensive back Walter Thurmond III

Jaguars running back Bernard Pierce

Jets defensive tackle Leger Douzable

Texans running back Chris Polk

Washington running back Pierre Thomas