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Defensive end Eric Lee enters free agency as Patriots allow his practice squad contract to expire

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Related: Patriots sign defensive end Tashawn Bower to futures pact

New England Patriots Training Camp Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

After their season came to a premature end on wild card weekend, the New England Patriots signed seven members of their 2019 practice squad to reserve-future contracts — including safety Obi Melifonwu, who ended the season on injured reserve. Another ex-practice squad player, defensive end Tashawn Bower, joined the list just one day later which left only one member of New England’s scout team unaccounted for: Eric Lee.

The defensive end originally joined the Patriots’ practice squad in mid-December, after he had started the season with the Detroit Lions. Lee remained on the team throughout the rest of the regular season and its lone postseason contest, but apparently did not convince New England to be kept around any longer: as was announced via the NFL’s transaction wire on Monday, he is now a free agent after the Patriots allowed his contract to expire.

Lee’s second stint with the team — he first came to New England midway during the 2017 season and went on to appear in nine games, including Super Bowl 52, before his release on 2018 cutdown day — therefore comes to an unceremonious end. While there is a chance that the Patriots bring the 25-year-old back on board further down the line, he is now eligible to be signed by one one of the other teams in the league as well.

With Lee gone, only eight former practice squad members will return to New England in 2020: wide receivers Devin Ross and Quincy Adeboyejo, offensive lineman Najee Toran, defensive lineman Nick Thurman, linebacker Terez Hall, defensive back Adarius Pickett and the aforementioned Obi Melifonwu and Tashawn Bower signed futures pacts with the team and will get a chance to compete for spots on the roster in the upcoming months.