by Scott Benson

I was going to call this ‘Saturday Night Massacre’ but I thought that might be too much.

The New England Patriots tonight cut twenty-one players, including veterans Vinny Testaverde, Chad Brown, Marcellus Rivers and Dante Wesley, as they got down to the 53-man roster limit before today’s 4:00 PM deadline.

In other manueverings, the Patriots announced that Richard Seymour is on the reserve/PUP list and lost for the first six weeks of the season. Another PUP candidate, tight end David Thomas, was suprisingly moved to the regular roster despite missing the entire pre-season.

The Patriots also released former draft picks Garrett Mills (2006), Clint Oldenburg, Justin Rogers, Corey Hilliard and Mike Elgin (all 2007), along with veteran lineman Gene Mruczkowski. Santonio Thomas and Bam Childress were among the others cut.

Randy Moss was not.

New England’s actual roster count is now 51, with neither Asante Samuel (exemption) or Rodney Harrison (suspension) presently counting against the final roster. It remains to be seen what the Patriots will do with that freedom.

On offense, the Patriots kept six receivers, eight linemen, three tight ends, four running backs and three quarterbacks,

Matt Gutierrez is by far the biggest surprise, as the Patriots clearly decided they would lose him if they kept Testaverde. Gutierrez competed for and won a job in the National Football League in his first training camp, despite not being drafted. A feel good story on a day that sorely needed one.

On defense, the Pats kept six linemen, eight linebackers (just three outside), four cornerbacks (not including Samuel, but including the written-off Tory James) and five safeties. The team naturally kept three specialists, including veteran long snapper Lonie Paxton.

The loss of Seymour was not entirely expected and when combined with last night’s shocking suspension of safety Harrison, the Patriots will open the season without two of its most dominant defensive players. Been a hell of a Labor Day Weekend so far.

Among the cuts, Rivers is a small surprise, not as big as Thomas being ready for action after missing all of August. Mills has never seemed to do enough to make the team. Three draft picks along the offensive line but none that were keepers, as the Pats went with eight, not nine, linemen. Childress, Kelvin Kight and CJ Jones seemed to be coming along but were stuck behind six veteran receivers. Rogers was thought to have a real shot, but in the end the Pats loaded up in other areas (like safety, with both Rashad Baker and Mel Mitchell) leaving just Mike Vrabel, Rosevelt Colvin and second-year player Pierre Woods as outside backers on the final roster. 

The Patriots can create an eight-man practice squad over the next day or two and its believed that players like Mills, Rogers and others will return to fill those spots. But for now, and for as long as they remain practice squaders, they can be signed away by any other team.

For a full run-down of the day’s events, the best place to check is Reiss’s Pieces and The Point After.