By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider
FOXBORO - The release of Brandon Meriweather on Saturday meant that not a single player from the 2007 draft remains on the Patriots.
That draft - and the 2006 and 2008 ones - have been rightly labeled as awful and discussed throughout the last few days.
A total of 16 teams put in claims on five of the players the Pats let go. Five claims were put in on tight end Lee Smith (he wound up in Buffalo). Four were put in on guard Thomas Austin (Houston). Three each were put in on tight end Will Yeatman and Brandon Tate (Miami and Cincinnati). And one was put in on Landon Cohen (Seattle). The Cowboys had the second highest level of interest in released players. Five total claims were put in on three of their players.
Add in James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather, signed by the Falcons and Bears respectively in short order after they were cut, and it's obvious that the guys at the end of the Patriots roster are good enough to play elsewhere. Or at least seem to have value.
As Bill Belichick points out, there are a number of ways to collect players. The draft - important as it is - is just one of them. Yeatman was undrafted out of Maryland and signed by the Patriots. Austin was picked up last September after the Vikings released him. Smith was a fifth-rounder. Tate was a third-rounder. Cohen was picked up after being waived last year by the Jaguars.
The Patriots deserve to have those drafts bashed. And free agent signings during the same period like Adalius Thomas and Shawn Springs. But a more complete picture shows that they are still at the top of the league when it comes to collecting players and putting them to good use.
Asked about the number of released players who attracted interest, Belichick said on Monday, "I think we’ve had a competitive camp. We have whatever it is, what 11 guys on other teams now. We had a competitive camp. We had a lot of guys battling it out in a lot of different positions. I can’t really speak to what other teams did, but the fact that they are with other teams probably says something about what the level of competition was at different positions on our team."
Undeniably. Belichick would have no doubt liked to have a shot at adding players like Yeatman and Smith to the practice squad. But he says he has no illusions about what might happen when a player is let go.
"Anytime you release a player I think you have a pretty good expectation that he’s not going to be here," Belichick explained. "If you want him then you keep him on the roster. Once you’ve put him out there then you can expect to lose him.
"I just don’t think you can release a player and expect to keep the player. If you do that’s pretty – it’s nice if it happens if that’s what you want, but there’s got to be a good probability that that isn’t going to happen. It’s certainly not anything you can count on; it’s not anything that we ever count on, I can tell you that. Once they’re on the wire then 31 other teams – if anybody wants him, he’s there’s."
Belichick downplayed the impact the rookie Yeatman can have in Miami where he can give the Dolphins intel on what the Patriots plans are for the season opener next Monday.
"I think there’s a lot more to it than that," said Belichick. "Could they tell you something that may be helpful? I don’t know. I know we worked on a lot of things in training camp. We had however many practice it was for preseason games – that’s a lot of stuff. We hadn’t begun our game plans for Miami yet, [and] I doubt that they’d begun their game plans for us either. I mean, there’s a whole volume of stuff there – it’s all on film. I think we have a pretty good idea of what Miami’s going to do – not exactly, but I’m sure they have a pretty good idea of what we’re going to do. We play each other twice a year, so I don’t know."Whatever information anybody gets on that I think is very marginal, very marginal," he added. "In all honesty, sometimes it can be more harm than good. ‘They do this, they do that, watch out for this, watch out for that,’ then they don’t do it, then it’s just a waste of time working on stuff that you didn’t know they had, [and] they still didn’t use it. So, I think it’s marginal."Tom E. Curran can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tomecurran.