The New England Patriots released wide receiver Jonathan Smith Monday. Smith was claimed off of waivers from the Buffalo Bills on September 3. He was released by the Patriots on September 9th and re-signed on September 12th, just two days after their season opener. Although Smith never recorded any statistics with the Patriots, his ability to return kicks was one of the attributes that made him attractive to teams looking for a reserve receiver.
Quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan was also released from the practice squad. O'Sullivan was signed by the Patriots on September 5, 2006, and placed on the team's practice squad. O'Sullivan saw no playing time with the Patriots, and was only on the roster for a little over three weeks, hardly enough time to learn the playbook.
Cornerback Antwain Spann was elevated from the practice squad on Saturday in time for the Patriots game against the Bengals. Spann, spent time in NFL Europe playing for the Rhine Fire. He was released by the Patriots September 2nd, and re-signed to the practice squad September 3rd. Spann had two tackle assists in Sunday's victory over the Bengals.
Offensive lineman Gene Mruczkowski was released on Saturday to make room for the addition of Spann to the active roster. In his fourth season, Mruczkowski has been a reserve most of his career appearing in 17 games with no starts. The 6-foot-2, 305-pound lineman was released by the Patriots in the middle of the 2005 season and later re-signed. If needed, the Patriots may decide to bring the Purdue product back at a later point this season.
Roster Impact Analysis
The release of Smith, O'Sullivan and Mruczkowski will have little impact on the team other than for depth purposes.
Smith hasn't been active all season for the Patriots. With the emergence of Doug Gabriel, and the return of Chad Jackson, it's unlikely the team will need his services as a fourth-string receiver with the alignments the offense has run so far. Three Tight end sets have become a standard for the team, and why not, Ben Watson, Daniel Graham and David Thomas have each demonstrated the ability to make plays.
O'Sullivan's departure could be an indication that the Patriots are closer to acquiring a veteran quarterback for insurance purposes. Having worked out three QBs in the past couple weeks, the indication is there that the team is interested in shoring up the roster behind starter Tom Brady. Troy Brown is the current emergency quarterback, a solution that is unlikely to be used, although technically possible. The Patriots could also acquire another young quarterback to groom behind Brady and push current No. 2 Matt Cassel for reserve duties.
Mruczkowski's departure is understandable if the team needs roster spots to stash healthy bodies while dealing with the injury bug. With center Dan Koppen's health back, the emergence of Russ Hochstein as a viable backup at center and possibly guard last season, Mruczkowski was a third-string center.
Spann was needed in the team's secondary, which has for the third season in a row, suffered a rash of injuries. This time, cornerback Ellis Hobbs was sidelined with a broken wrist, and safety, cornerback Eugene Wilson was out with a hamstring problem. Spann was familiar with the team's defense, and has the ability to play in obvious passing situations as well as on special teams. He did pick up a pair of penalties on special teams against the Bengals.
The moves leave one spot open on the active roster and two on the practice squad.