by Scott Benson

The Patriots today continued to shape their 2007 roster when – in a mild surprise – they released veteran receiver Reche Caldwell after one season with the team.

Mike Reiss first reported the move on his outstanding Reiss’s Pieces, which is all over Gillette Stadium today as the team prepares for its opening game next Sunday in the Meadowlands.

John Tomase, on the Herald’s winning The Point After, countered by breaking the news that Randy Moss took the practice field this afternoon after an absence of more than a month.

It was Moss’s appearance that likely precipitated the release of Caldwell, who in 2006 set career highs in receptions, yardage and touchdowns in his first season with New England. The Patriots may have hestiated to add Caldwell to the list of cuts on Saturday without knowing whether Moss would be ready to go this week, and when the controversial All-Pro returned to the fold this afternoon, it was the end for Reche.

Caldwell, naturally, is the poor soul who signed with New England following the loss of free agent David Givens, and the holdout and subsequent bustout by Deion Branch. As a starter, Caldwell had the best season of his up and down career, and he even formed a degree of chemistry with Tom Brady, who often looked to Caldwell as he tried to re-build the Pats passing game. After an off-season player shuffle that featured at least three name receivers, and the emergence of fellow free agent Jabar Gaffney, he slid to the bottom of the depth chart, and then off it.

The move leaves the Patriots with a free roster spot.  New England still has only three outside linebackers listed, though Adalius Thomas, one of six inside linebackers on the team, is certainly a possibility there.

Moss will presumably be in uniform next Sunday to face the Jets, though it’s awful early in the week. Asante Samuel looks to be on track as well, a presumed opening day starter as he begins his second week back with the team. In other news, Eugene Wilson, Kyle Brady and David Thomas all practiced, according to both of the aforementioned bloggers.

In an odd twist today, the Pats placed fullback Kyle Eckel on their eight-man practice squad. Eckel, as you’ll recall, was the undrafted free agent who became a fan favorite after an impressive camp in 2005. The Pats had no room for him in the end, and he signed with Miami before the Pats could slide him to their practice squad. Cut by Miami this weekend after two seasons in limbo (no games played), Eckel comes full circle. Moral of the story: hang on to those Garrett Mills jerseys, folks. 

The Pats also signed TE Jason Rader to the practice squad. I have absolutely no idea who he is.

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