The NFL is loaded with players who spent time with the New England Patriots, but as we all know, sports is a business and players move on for a variety of reasons. Here’s a look at what’s up with former Patriots who are still in the game or are free agents with a shot at playing again.
Signed as an undrafted rookie in 2013, Zach Sudfeld impressed many during Patriots training camp, quickly vaulting over veterans Michael Hoomanawanui, Jake Ballard, and Daniel Fells on the depth chart behind the injured Rob Gronkowski. Sudfeld had three catches for 54 yards and a touchdown in his first two preseason games, but lost a costly fumble on his only catch of the third game.
Nevertheless, Sudfeld made the team out of training camp and played in three of the Patriots first four games of 2013, but did not record a catch. He was waived by the Patriots after Week 4 and was claimed by the New York Jets.
The Patriots made headlines in the 2013 offseason when they signed Tim Tebow, who had been released by the New York Jets. Tebowmania followed him to New England, raising questions as to how the Patriots would use the former college football star and first-round pick who led the Broncos to a division title and a playoff win in 2011.
Despite reports to the contrary, Tebow did not play anything besides quarterback in training camp, and he saw time in three games. He completed 11 passes on 30 attempts for 145 yards. He never looked comfortable in the New England offense and had more mistakes than success. Tebow was sacked seven times and threw two touchdowns and two interceptions in the preseason.
The Patriots released Tebow in cutting down to their 53-man roster; he is now a free agent.
Zoltan Mesko was a productive punter during his tenure in New England, playing three full seasons and holding an average of more than 43 yards per punt in 2010 and 2012, and an impressive 46.5 yard punt average in 2011. Mesko also was a charismatic player off the field and was appreciated by Patriots fans.
After spending all of training camp with the Patriots in 2013, Mesko was cut from the team in favor of rookie punter Ryan Allen. He was not out of a job for long, however, and was picked up by the Pittsburgh Steelers, for whom he is the starting punter for the 2013 season.
Jermaine Cunningham was drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 2010 draft and spent three seasons with the team. He recorded 34 tackles and one sack in 15 games in 2010, then took a step back in 2011. He seemed to be moving in the right direction in 2012, recording 24 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 12 games, but missed four due to a suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. He
Cunningham was back in training camp with the Patriots in 2013, but the team decided to go another way, releasing him in its final cuts. He spent the first few weeks of 2013 as a free agent, then signed with the 49ers in September.
Justin Francis played 10 games for the Patriots in 2012, recording 10 tackles as a backup defensive lineman. He had a breakout game in the final regular season game against the Dolphins, in which he recorded three sacks, and then had six tackles in two postseason games.
Francis came back for training camp with the Patriots and played in the first two preseason games, recording three tackles. He was cut by the Patriots following camp and is a free agent.
Dowling was projected to be a premier cornerback for the Patriots after he was selected with the 33d overall pick in the 2011 draft. Dowling never reached his potential in New England, however, starting just two games in two seasons plagued by injuries that saw him finish both seasons on injured reserve.
He came into training camp in 2013 with another injury and saw limited time during the preseason. The Patriots finally cut their losses with Dowling at the end of training camp, waiving the cornerback. He cleared waivers and is a free agent.
Daniel Fells was one of only two healthy returning tight ends entering Patriots training camp in 2013, along with Michael Hoomanawanui. Fells was a productive tight end for the St. Louis Rams and Denver Broncos before joining the Patriots prior to the 2012 season. He played in 13 games and caught four passes for 85 yards in 2012 with New England.
He was expected to be a leading candidate to make the team after training camp 2013, but fell behind Hoomanawanui and rookie Zach Sudfeld and was cut from the 53-man roster. He is a free agent.
When it was found that Rob Gronkowski would miss time recovering from arm and back surgeries one player looked at to fill the void was Jake Ballard. The three-year veteran came to the Patriots after a successful 2011 campaign with the New York Giants in which he had 38 receptions for 604 yards and four touchdowns, but ended with a torn ACL in the Giants’ Super Bowl win against the Patriots.
New England claimed Ballard off waivers from New York that offseason and he spent 2012 on the IR, but was expected to be ready to go for 2013. Ballard never panned out for the Patriots, and saw only limited playing time in the preseason, where it looked like his knee still had not fully healed. He was cut at the end of training camp and became a free agent.
The biggest offseason loss for the Patriots in 2013 was receiver Wes Welker. Acquired from the Dolphins in 2007, Welker immediately became a favorite target for Tom Brady, operating as the most reliable option for the Patriots’ quarterback and earning the reputation as “automatic.’’
Welker caught more than 100 passes in five of the six seasons he spent in New England, was named to five Pro Bowls, and racked up almost 7,500 yards receiving and 37 touchdowns. Welker also set the Patriots’ career record for receptions.
The end of Welker’s tenure in New England, however, was not as smooth as his catching ability. After a dropped pass on third down that arguably cost the Patriots the Super Bowl in 2012, Welker and the Patriots could not agree to a long-term extension, with the Patriots instead placing the franchise tag on him for the 2012 season.
After playing out the one year franchise tag, Welker opted for free agency, and, in a seemingly unthinkable turn of events, Welker decided to leave New England and sign a two-year, $12 million deal with the Denver Bronocs, with speculation suggesting that he took less money to leave the Patriots after he decided he did not want to play for New England anymore.
Welker is now a top target in Denver for likely future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning.
After being cast off from the New York Jets early in the 2010 season, the Patriots took a chance on Danny Woodhead, and turned the former NCAA Division II player into a solid utility back and a fan favorite.
Woodhead played 14 games in 2010 with New England, rushing for 547 yards and gaining 379 receiving yards. An average season in 2011, coupled with the emergence of Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen in the running game in 2012 led to a reduced role for Woodhead. Woodhead did catch 40 passes for 446 yards in 2012, but by the end of the season it was clear that Ridley and Vereen had taken over the running game.
In March, Woodhead signed with the San Diego Chargers.
In order to improve their receiving corps for 2012, the Patriots signed former St. Louis Ram Brandon Lloyd. Lloyd was supposed to be the Patriots’ answer for their deep passing woes, allowing Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez to work the inside while giving Tom Brady an outlet on the outside.
Despite catching 74 passes for 911 yards, Lloyd only scored four touchdowns and was not the outside threat the Patriots wanted. New England released the 10-year veteran following the season, and he is a free agent.
He has decided to not to return to the NFL despite receiving offers from several teams in the offseason, deciding instead to embark on an acting career.
Kyle Love signed with the Patriots after going undrafted in 2010. After playing nine games in his rookie season, he became a regular on the defensive line for New England in 2011, recording 33 combined tackles and three sacks in 2011, helping the Patriots to an appearance in Super Bowl XLVI. He played all 16 games for New England in 2012, recording 25 tackles and 1.5 sacks.
Love was placed on waivers in May 2013 and was claimed by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He was later cut and is a free agent.
Brandon Deaderick played on the Patriots’ defensive line for three seasons from 2010 through 2012. A 20120 seventh-round draft pick by the Patriots, Deaderick played 34 games over the three seasons he spent in New England, recording 45 tackles and five sacks. He had his most productive season in 2012, where he had 18 tackles, one sack, and two forced fumbles.
Deaderick was placed on waivers by New England this past offseason, and, like teammate Kyle Love, was claimed by the Jaguars in hopes that Jacksonville can rebuild its defensive line.
Safety Patrick Chung was a staple of the New England secondary for most of four seasons from 2009 through 2012. A 2009 second round draft pick by New England, Chung played 38 games for his first three seasons in New England, recording 195 combined tackles with five interceptions, three tackles, and one INT returned for a touchdown.
Lack of stopping power from the secondary, combined with increased efficiency seen from moving cornerback Devin McCourty to safety, saw Chung lose his starting position in 2012, and he was not re-signed by New England following the season. Chung signed with the Eagles in March 2013.
Trevor Scott signed with the Patriots in March 2012. Scott had spent the previous four seasons with the Oakland Raiders, playing all 16 games in three of those seasons, recording 97 combined tackles with 13.5 sacks. He played 14 games for New England in 2012, making 14 combined tackles – seven of those primary – adding three sacks and one forced fumble. Scott signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the 2013 season.
Tracy White played with the Patriots for three seasons, seeing mostly time on special teams, but also saw some time at linebacker. He played 42 games from 2010 through 2012 for New England, recording 46 total tackles. He was second on the Patriots with 18 special teams tackles in 2010. Prior to the Patriots, White spent time with the Seahawks, Jaguars, Packers, and Eagles. He is a free agent.
Derrick Martin was one of the many defensive backs that the Patriots tried to shore up their backfield with during the 2012 season. The two-time Super Bowl champion originally signed with New England on Aug. 4, 2012, but was released during final cuts before the regular season. Martin was resigned on Oct. 31, and played in five games, recording five combined tackles and one sack. He signed with the Chicago Bears in August 2013, but was cut.
Malcolm Williams (left), seen here during training camp in 2012, was selected by the Patriots in the seventh round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The cornerback ended up playing two games for New England in 2012, recording two combined tackles. He was released by the Patriots in April 2013 and is a free agent.
Jeff Demps never played a regular season game for the Patriots, but he was nevertheless in the headlines in New England. After originally spurning the NFL to compete on the US 4×400 meter relay team in the 2012 Summer Olympics, he was signed by the Patriots on August 17 and practiced with the team for two weeks before being placed on injured reserve on Aug. 31.
In April 2013, Demps was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, along with a 2013 seventh round pick, for running back LeGarrette Blount.
Tiquan Underwood played six games for the Patriots in 2011, catching three passes for 30 yards. Most remembered for his Fresh Prince of Bel-Air flat-top haircut, he was also the final player cut from the Patriots to get their roster down to 53-players on the eve of Super Bowl XLVI.
Underwood played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, recording 28 catches for 425 yards and two touchdowns. He came into training camp with the Buccaneers in 2013, catching five passes in three preseason games, but has not played any regular season games for Tampa Bay.
Donte’ Stallworth started out with the Patriots in training camp in 2012, but was cut before the start of the regular season. Following an injury to Julian Edelman, Stallworth was re-signed by the Patriots and played Week 14 against the Texans, recording one catch for 63 yards and a touchdown. Stallworth did not play the rest of the season after sustaining a hamstring injury and was released by the team.
He was signed by the Redskins in the 2013 offseason and reported to training camp. Stallworth had previously played for the Patriots in 2007, where he played all 16 games and caught 46 passes for 697 yards and three touchdowns. He has 321 total receptions for his career for 4,837 yards and 35 touchdowns. He was cut by the Redskins and is a free agent.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis collected more than 2,000 yards in a Patriots uniform from 2008-11, and did not fumble once. T
he Patriots did not retain Green-Ellis in the offseason, however, as the Bengals signed him to a three-year deal. Green-Ellis rushed for 1.094 yards and six touchdowns for the Bengals in 2012, and is with the Bengals again in 2013.
The 2011 Pro Bowler signed with the Raiders prior to the 2012 season, and recorded 13 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and one forced fumble for Oakland. Carter had 10 sacks in his lone year with the Patriots. He had previously played five years apiece with the Redskins and 49ers. He is a free agent.
The Patriots cut the two-time Pro Bowler and 2007 first-round draft pick from the University of Miami Sept. 3, 2011 and coach Bill Belichick doesn’t regret the decision. “I think each year is a new year, and I just don’t think you can pick teams, or pick your players based on what’s happened in the past,” Belichick said. “You have to pick them based on what you think is going to happen this year, and that’s relative to the competition, to the make of your team, and player’s performance.”
The Bears scooped up Meriweather a day after the Patriots cut him. On March 15, 2012, he signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Redskins. He had seven combined tackles and one interception in 2012 with Washington.
The Patriots cut Brandon Tate before the start of the 2011 season, and he caught on with the Bengals. Tate led the league in punt returns with 51 in 2011.
With the Patriots in 2010, Tate caught 24 passes for 432 yard and three touchdowns, and he returned 41 kicks and just one punt. He had 13 recepetions for 211 yards and one touchdown in 2012 with the Bengals.
Drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft by the Patriots, Darius Butler was waived by New England Sept. 6, 2010. On the same day he was waived, the Panthers claimed the cornerback. Butler started six games for Carolina in 2011 and played with Indianapolis for 2012, recording 31 combined tackles, four interceptions, and one forced fumble. He is still with the Colts.
Sanders (left), a fourth-round draft pick of the Patriots in 2005, joined the Falcons on a one-year deal in 2011. After playing in 15 games with Atlanta, Sanders signed with the Cardinals April 4, 2012.
He played 15 games for Arizona in 2012, recording 19 combined tackles. He is a free agent.
The Patriots released the defensive lineman, who was out for most of 2010 with a hip injury, in July 2011. The Broncos signed him later in the preseason, but he had surgery on his partially torn triceps and missed the whole season.
Warren started most games for the Patriots as a defensive end between 2004 and 2009, winning two Super Bowl rings (XXXVIII and XXXIX) and earning one All-Pro selection (2007).
He played just one game for Denver in 2012, and is a free agent.
The 31-year-old tight end, who played in Super Bowl XXXIX for the Patriots, signed a three-year deal with the Browns after the 2009 season. Watson caught 68 passes for 763 yards and three touchdowns in 2010, and in 2011 caught two touchdowns and 37 passes for 410 yards. Watson had 49 receptions for 501 yards and three touchdowns in 2012.
He signed with the Saints in the 2012 offseason, and is with New Orleans this season.
In a stunning deal, the five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle was shipped to Oakland in Sept. 2009. Seymour was on all three Patriots championship teams in the 2000s.
In 2009, Seymour had 47 tackles, four sacks and one forced fumble in his first season with the Raiders. He followed up with 48 tackles in 2010 and 28 in 2011, both Pro Bowl seasons. He played eight games in 2012 with Oakland, recording three sacks and recovering one fumble.
He is a free agent, and while his name was bandied about on talk radio after Vince Wilfork was injured as a possible replacement, he said he would not return to the Patriots.
Vinatieri, the Patriots’ career leading scorer with 1,158 points, signed with the Colts as a free agent after the 2005 season. In his first season with the team he added to the three Super Bowls he had won in New England, earning his fourth ring after the Colts defeated the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
Vinatieri is in his 18th NFL season in 2013. He kicked 26 field goals and made 37 extra points in 2012 for the Colts.
Samuel won his first Super Bowl in his rookie season, 2004, against a team he would later join four years later, the Philadelphia Eagles. Samuel was a one-time Pro Bowler with the Pats before joining the Eagles on a lucrative free agent deal. The Falcons traded for Samuel before the 2012 season.
In 2009, Samuel led the Eagles with nine interceptions. He also had 42 tackles and a fumble recovery. Samuel appeared in 11 games in 2010 and had seven interceptions. In 2011, he intercepted three passes and had a fumble recovery, returning one for a touchdown. He made 36 combined tackels in 2012, adding five interceptions and one return for a touchdown.
Cassel filled in capably at quarterback after Tom Brady went down with an injury at the start of the 2008 season, and his reward was a trade to Kansas City, where he received a $63 million contract. In 2009, Cassel passed for 2,924 yards and had 16 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions.
Cassel led the Chiefs to a division title in 2010, passing for over 3,000 yards to go with 27 TD passes and 7 interceptions. He missed time in 2011, passing for 1,713 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He played nine games for the Chiefs in 2012, throwing for 1,796 yards with six touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
He signed with the Minnesota Vikings in the 2013 offseason.
Brian Hoyer was Tom Brady’s backup from 2009 to 2011, and he spent a good portion of 2012 out of football before short stints with the Cardinals and Steelers.
He finally got a chance with the Browns in 2013 and was named the started in Week 3. He led the Browns to consecutive victories, but in Week 5 he suffered a season-ending knee injury.