First Five Big Cuts of the Summer

Niko Koutouvides (Kevin Saleeba /Patriots Insider)

With roster cuts looming, the Patriots gave five players the ax Monday with more to come this week.

By Kevin Saleeba

In an effort to trim their roster to 75 players by Tuesday, the Patriots chopped five players on Monday.

The most notable cut was linebacker and special teamer Niko Koutouvides. The 32-year-old veteran of nine NFL seasons, including two (2011-2012) with New England, played in each of the final 14 games of the Patriots' 2012 season and both postseason games. The 6-foot-2, 245-pounder had eight special team tackles and one tackle on defense in the regular season and one special teams tackle in the postseason.

Koutouvides signed with New England in August of 2011, but was released when the team trimmed the roster to 53 prior to the start of the season. He returned to the team at midseason and played in 11 games and all three postseason games.

Prior to playing in New England, he spent time with the Seahawks, the Broncos and Tamp Bay. According to reports, there is still a possibility the Patriots could resign Koutouvides later this season if he does not latch on with another team.

The Patriots also released wide receiver Kamar Aiken, cornerback LeQuan Lewis and two undrafted rookies, cornerback Brandon Jones and long-snapper Mike Zupancic.
Kamar Aiken (Kevin Saleeba/Patriots Insider)

Aiken, 24, first joined the New England practice squad on Nov. 19, 2012. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound receiver spent some time on the 53-man roster last year, playing in one game against Jacksonville last December. He came into the NFL as a rookie free agent with Buffalo out of Central Florida in 2011. Aiken also spent time with Chicago prior to coming to New England.

Lewis, 24, signed with the Patriots on Aug. 12. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder played in eight NFL games in 2012 with three games with the Dallas Cowboys and five games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He's also played with the Jets, Raiders, and Bears.

Jones, 23, was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent out of Rutgers prior to training camp. The 6-1, 187-pound cornerback played in 13 games with 12 starts as a senior, posting 31 tackles and a team-leading five interceptions.

The 6-foot-5, 260-pound Zupancic, 23, joined the Patriots as a rookie free agent out of Eastern Michigan in May. He was released on August 2 before being re-signed on Aug. 5.

The Patriots added depth at a few other positions, re-signing rookie cornerback Stephon Morris and rookie defensive lineman Scott Vallone.

The 5-foot-8, 190-pound Morris, 22, played in 49 games with 24 starts during his college career at Penn State. He finished with 148 tackles, one interception and 13 passes defensed.

Vallone, 23, was a four-year starter at defensive tackle for Rutgers. The 6-foot-3, 275-pounder appeared in two games as a true freshman in 2008 before undergoing season-ending surgery and was redshirted. During his four-years as a starter, Vallone recorded 195 total tackles and 8½ sacks.

The Patriots also placed rookie defensive lineman Cory Grissom, who suffered an ankle injury against the Lions, and second-year offensive tackle Markus Zusevics on injured reserve. They moved first-year defensive lineman Armond Armstead and rookie wide receiver Mark Harrison to the reserve/non-football injury list, making them ineligible to return to the team until Week 6.

The Patriots' roster is at 77 players and will need to make at least two more roster cuts before Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline.

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Kevin Saleeba is the senior editor and columnist for Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinSaleeba

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