Patriots release Gaffney, Stallworth

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Patriots release Gaffney, Stallworth

FOXBORO - Tom Brady lobbied for the return of prodigal wideouts Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth during the offseason but neither man made it past Monday night. Gaffney and Stallworth were among the five players the team released in cutting the roster down to the current league limit of 75. The team also released Tim Bulman and Gerard Warren. A source tells CSNNE's Mary Paoletti that Ross Ventrone was waived injured. Other moves the Patriots included sending tight end Jake Ballard and DL Myron Pryorto the ReservePhysically Unable to Perform list. Rookie free agent OL Markus Zusevics was placed on the ReserveNon Football Injury List. Those players are eligible to return after Week 6. Defensive back Will Allen, S Josh Barrett and FB Spencer Larsen were placed on injured reserve In addition, the Patriots claimed first-year WR Kerry Taylor. Taylor is a 6-foot, 196-pounder out of Arizona State who was on the practice squads of the 49ers and Vikings. The releases of Gaffney and Stallworth leave the Patriots with Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Jeremy Ebert, Julian Edelman, Jesse Holley and Matthew Slater on the roster. Patriots owner Robert Kraft opined that Stallworth could find his way back. "You never know what moving on means," said Kraft before the team's annual preseason gala. "This is a business where things change so you want to keep good relationships and you never know what can happen. Also, it's a business where you have a very limited budget. You have to be disciplined how you do things. People's skills fade or how they fit into your system is different. We might claim someone today who has some experience or may fit our system. A lot of variables, if I were a straight fanI wouldn't understand it. It's all about putting us in the best position to win."

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

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Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear.