The NFL’s cutdown day is not even a week away, which means that busy times are ahead for the New England Patriots and the other league’s 31 other teams. The world champions were actually pretty active yesterday: the team released two players (Maurice Harris, Keionta Davis), put another on injured reserve (Brandon King), and signed a pair of free agents (Robert Martin, Scooby Wright). It also activated wide receiver Josh Gordon.
Today seems to be more of the same, if a report by ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss is to be believed: the Patriots have informed defensive tackle Mike Pennel that they will release. Pennel. New England had originally signed the veteran defender to a two-year, $5.0 million contract on the second official day of free agency to help fill the void created by the departure of former first-round draft pick Malcom Brown.
However, he never was able to do just that and found himself behind Danny Shelton on the Patriots’ defensive tackle/nose tackle depth chart all summer long. Seeing him play deep into the third preseason game was a sign of things to come: Pennel, whose release creates net salary cap savings of around $1.3 million as well as $250,000 in dead money, was never the roster lock he was envisioned to be when he first joined the Patriots.
Now, the team has parted ways with the 28-year-old. In turn, the odds of fifth-round draft pick Byron Cowart carving out a role along the interior of New England’s defensive line have improved quite a bit: the rookie looked good during preseason and saw considerable action with the starting defense; it would not be a surprise to see him join Lawrence Guy and de facto locks Adam Butler and Danny Shelton on the 53-man roster this year.