Over the last week, the New England Patriots decided to part ways with two members of their wide receiver depth chart: on Monday, the team released third-year wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell after an offseason full of speculation about his health. Coming off a year-long stint on injured reserve, the former fourth-round draft pick only recently returned to practice in limited capacity but failed to convince the Patriots to keep him around.
The release did not only create an open spot on New England’s 90-man roster – one that could be filled by cornerback Bashaud Breeland, for example –, it also exposed Mitchell to the NFL’s waiver wire: the 31 non-Patriots teams would have an opportunity to easily pick up the 25-year old, who showed noticeable potential during his 2016 rookie season and played an important role in helping New England win the Super Bowl.
However, Mitchell passed through the waiver wire unclaimed. As a result, he is now a regular free agent that is free to sign with any team – including the Patriots. It might be a while, though, before the Georgia product finds a new home: teams are apparently not yet willing to give him a shot, and trust him to get up to speed in time to make immediate contributions.
The second wide receiver the Patriots moved on from over the last week is Jordan Matthews: the free agency acquisition injured his hamstring earlier this training camp and was subsequently placed on injured reserve. The 26-year old could be back on a football field later this year, however, as New England released him off its reserve list with an injury settlement yesterday.
As a result, the four-year veteran will now receive pre-negotiated payments by New England for a period that depends on the severity of his injury. However, he cannot be re-signed by the Patriots during that time. Once that settlement period is over, Matthews is free to join any team’s roster but would have to wait an additional six weeks to join New England’s again.