By Phil Perry and Jimmy Toscano
Darius Butler is no longer a member of the Patriots.
On Tuesday afternoon the third-year corner back tweeted: "Its been real New England. I was blessed to have a chance to play and start my NFL career here. But its time to open a new chapter. Thx patsnation"
Hours later, Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer reported that the cornerback was claimed off waivers by the Carolina Panthers.
After a productive rookie season in 2009, the second-round pick out of UConn has been a disappointment. In his first year, he made 35 tackles and recorded 3 interceptions. He also defended eight passes.
Last season, he had a chance to step up and have a big role in the Patriots secondary with cornerback Leigh Bodden out for the season but he didn't capitalize on the opportunity. Kyle Arrington, primarily used as a special-teamer at the time, overtook Butler on the depth chart, and Butler was relegated to a bench role.
Coming off the bench, his production went down in every category in 2010 as he finished with just 23 tackles and zero interceptions, and as he told Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com, things weren't working out.
It kind of went downhill from there, Butler acknowledged. I never faced that kind of adversity when it came to sports, being benched. I just was not playing up to the level I expected to, and the level the team expected. Not seeing the field as much as last year, that was tough.
The Patriots drafted cornerback Ras-I Dowling in the second round this year, and Bodden is back from last season's shoulder injury. When healthy, Bodden looks like he will be a starter at cornerback opposite Devin McCourty. The Patriots also have cornerbacks Arrington and Antwaun Molden on the roster.
That gave the Patriots options heading into the season.
I didnt know how it would work out, a trade or release," he told ESPNBoston.com. "Im not really surprised by it. Things werent working out with me and the team. Its not really a shocker. You can kind of see the writing on the wall sometimes. It was best for both parties.
If you think this move somehow negates Tom E. Curran's stance that Bill Belichick still knows how to recognize talent, keep in mind: The Patriots also drafted Patrick Chung, Sebastian Vollmer, Myron Pryor, Ron Brace and Julian Edelman in the 2009 draft. Though Chung and Vollmer are the only two surefire starters from that group, all are still with the team.
Butler is the sixth former Patriot claimed off waivers by at least one team since Saturday.