By Phil Perry
The Patriots have had questions at the safety position all preseason, and today they lopped off a former starter.
No, not Brandon Meriweather.
According to ESPN, the Patriots have informed James Sanders that they plan to cut him. Sanders was in the starting lineup against the Lions on Saturday as the Pats fell, 34-10. Sanders confirmed the news on Twitter.
ESPN's Mike Reiss reports that the Patriots cut Sanders, as opposed to traded him, so that he has the opportunity to sign with a team of his choosing. Reiss also said that Sanders holds no grudge against the Patriots, though he feels as though he wasn't given a chance to compete for a spot.
Sanders was entering his seventh season with the Patriots. At around 2 p.m. he tweeted "It's been real New England." A bit later, he added, "Thanks for all the love Pats fans!!!", and then, "Any teams out there need a starting safety!!!??"
"Tough release there with James Sanders," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said on his weekly press conference Monday afternoon. "James has been a really good guy to have on this team, a hard working kid. Has developed from the time he came to us, he's been a really solid team player for us. We needed to release some people. He was a tough one."
Sanders, a fourth-round pick of the Patriots in 2005, appeared in 80 games for the Pats (50 starts), totally 301 tackles and eight interceptions. The Pats surely had to weigh whether Sanders likely reduced role justified the 2.8 million salary he's due to make this season.
"What's goin on," ex-teammate Ellis Hobbs said in his own tweet. "They got rid of the smartest player . . . in the Patriot organization?!"
Meriweather has put together several less-than-stellar performances this summer in the Patriots secondary, and some wondered whether he might be on the bubble even though the Pats are thin at safety.
Now, without Sanders, they're downright anemic. Meriweather, a Pro Bowler last year, headlines a group that includes Patrick Chung, Sergio Brown, James Ihedigbo and Josh Barrett.