The decision Patriots fans have been waiting to hear is now official: Quarterback Tim Tebow has been cut from the team.
The Patriots released 13 players and placed another on injured reserve to comply with the league-mandated roster maximum of 53 on Saturday. The Patriots went below the limit and were at 51 players Saturday evening.
Tebow thanked the Patriots in a series of tweets Saturday afternoon.
“I would like to thank Mr. Kraft, Coach Belichick, Coach McDaniels and the entire Patriots organization for giving me the opportunity to be a part of such a classy organization. I pray for nothing but the best for you all. I will remain in relentless pursuit of continuing my lifelong dream of being an NFL quarterback,’’ he wrote.
The Patriots also released punter Zoltan Mesko. That the Patriots kept undrafted rookie Ryan Allen around for as long as they had indicated there was a true competition between Mesko and the Louisiana Tech product.
The other players released were DL Jermaine Cunningham, DL Justin Francis, LB Jeff Tarpinian, DL Marcus Forston, LB Ja’Gared Davis, S Kanorris Davis, DB Justin Green, OL Chris McDonald, DB Stephon Morris, WR Quentin Sims, and RB George Winn.
Safety Adrian Wilson was placed on injured reserve.
Tebow is a former first-round draft pick who has become a fascinating figure during his relatively brief time in the NFL. He is beloved by Florida fans and many college football fans in general for his national title and Heisman Trophy-winning time with the Gators, but there was debate even before he was drafted as to whether or not Tebow had the skills required to play quarterback as a professional.
He did start 11 regular-season games for the Broncos in 2011, going 7-4 and leading Denver to a thrilling overtime postseason win against Pittsburgh before getting blown out the next week in New England.
Through training camp and the four preseason games, it appeared Mesko had an edge on Allen, so the deciding factor was likely cost: Mesko was slated to make $1.323 million this season, with Allen on the books for the rookie minimum of $405,000.
Mesko thanked the team and fans in a post to his Facebook page.
“First and foremost, I want to thank the New England Patriots for everything they have done for me. I have nothing but love in my heart as I depart this great organization,’’ Mesko wrote.
Wilson played into the second half of Thursday night’s game against the Giants and he was believed to be on the roster bubble. It is not known at this time if Wilson is on season-ending injured reserve or if he will be the Patriots’ “designated to return’’ injured player.
In 2012, after the Broncos acquired Peyton Manning, Tebow was traded to the Jets, and he made little to no impact with New York, used in Wildcat formations and on special teams.
Cut by the Jets earlier this year, Tebow was on the market for more than five weeks before signing with the Patriots, where the man who drafted him in Denver, Josh McDaniels, is now offensive coordinator.
Throughout training camp and in his three preseason appearances, the number of head-scratching plays from Tebow far outnumbered the standout ones, as it became clear that he lacks the two things Bill Belichick has said over and over are the top requirements for good quarterback play: accuracy and decision-making.
Tebow was 11-for-30 (36.7 percent) for 145 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and seven sacks in the preseason. He had his best outing in the finale against the Giants, when he threw both touchdown passes, to Quentin Sims.
This could spell the end of the road for Tebow in the NFL.
Cunningham becomes yet another recent second-round pick who has been released without making much of an impact with the Patriots. One of three second-round picks for New England in 2010, between Rob Gronkowski and Florida teammate Brandon Spikes, Cunningham played in just 21 games over the last two seasons, missing seven games to injury in 2011 and four in ‘12 when he was suspended for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
He entered this season with a chance to contribute if he was ready, with New England thin on the defensive line, but Cunningham missed time to injury again, essentially sealing his fate. For his career, he had 3 1/2 sacks.
From 2008-2011, the Patriots drafted 10 players in the second round – Terrence Wheatley, Darius Butler, Patrick Chung, Ron Brace, Sebastian Vollmer, Spikes, Cunningham, Gronkowski, Shane Vereen, and Ras-I Dowling – and only four of those 10 remain, with three of them offensive players.
Teams can begin making waiver claims at noon on Sunday.