Patriots Release of Meriweather Is Somewhat Surprising

Ian Logue
September 03, 2011 at 06:45pm ET

Filling the Patriots' needs: No. 2 Linebackers
Rob Gronkowski says he'll be back with Patriots
Buckley: Perfect celebration of Gil Santos’ life
Plenty of option plays for Patriots
Rob Gronkowski tells Patriots he will play this season

It's no secret that things haven't exactly been ideal when it comes to Brandon Meriweather, but Saturday's release of the Patriots safety comes as somewhat of a surprise.

Well...kind of.

Most would agree that if some sort of a trade was consummated to send the former first round pick on his way, it would have been less shocking.  However, the fact that they simply decided to cut him loose while getting nothing in return is somewhat puzzling.  Bill Belichick has always been a guy who generally doesn't do something unless there's value and logic behind it, and cutting Meriweather without getting anything in return - other than salary cap space - is definitely kind of bewildering.

Let's get one thing straight.  Even if you're not one of Meriweather's biggest fans, the guy is still better than quite a few guys who play his position in this league.  He's been reliable, and considering the other injuries they've dealt with at that position he's never missed a game, registering 40 regular season starts since being drafted back in 2007.

Obviously the fact that he was a former first round pick lead to higher expectations from fans, who obviously expected more from the former University of Miami defensive back.  If Meriweather was a 6th or 7th round pick, people would likely be talking about the fact that he was a great value pick and would probably hold him in a different light.  Instead, he's been the subject of criticism here in New England over the past couple of seasons.

That all came to a head last year when Meriweather revealed in an interview with WEEI that he had been in the doghouse with Belichick for 'freelancing' a bit too much, and that seems to be where most of the problems started. After word came out some wondered if it was freelancing, or if he was simply "guessing wrong" when trying to be overly aggressive and make a play.

“How aggressive do you want to be?” said Belichick duringa press conference last September. “How much do you want to try to push the envelope on that? Again, it’s a coaching, scheme thing. It’s also individual player decision making on each play. It’s complicated. It gets into matchups. If a guy is covering one guy, you play it one way. You’re covering somebody else; you might play it a little bit differently. That changes within the game, where people move and so forth. Part of being a football player is being a football player and making those kind of decisions. That’s what instinctive, good players do. They make the right one.”

Today's news would lead you to believe that Meriweather wasn't doing that.

He also didn't help himself in the game against the Ravens last year when he was fined for a violent helmet-to-helmet shot to Baltimore tight end Todd Heap, but that action ended up with mixed reviews.  Belichick pulled him after the play, but Vince Wilfork later told reporters after the game that it fired up the defense and helped spark them to a win.

He also had a tough offseason.  Earlier this year he was reportedly involved in a shooting as a witness after a confrontation down in Florida between a cousin and another individual. Meriweather was originally reported as a suspect, but that investigation cleared that charge and now he's just a potential witness.

Brandon Meriweather is no longer a member of the New England Patriots. (FILE:Icon/SMI)

This preseason had been pretty quiet on the field for Meriweather, but the writing was on the wall after Thursday night's game against New York when Meriweather found himself on the field in the fourth quarter along with Darius Butler.  Obviously at that point in the game against 3rd string guys it was his job to shine and at the same time help direct some of the younger guys on defense.  After the game, Belichick just downplayed all the buzz on his appearance and said they were just rotating guys in.

Instead, he's been rotated right out of here and will have to clear out his locker and go find somewhere else to play.

That shouldn't be too hard.  There's plenty of teams out there with players at that position who aren't anywhere near as physically gifted.  From all indications it sounds like Meriweather is more stubborn than stupid - so one would believe he'll end up somewhere.

Obviously facing a deadline they had a limited time to figure out a trade partner, and it's hard to believe they weren't able to fetch something for him.  Even going to extremes one would have to believe at the very least Meriweather was worth at least a 6th or a 7th round pick, but obviously the Patriots front office likely explored all their options and decided this was the best course of action.

Unfortunately, no one but Belichick and Meriweather truly knows what the issue really is. However, it's obvious that you can't have a guy potentially undermining what you're trying to do, and Meriweather's decision to go against what he was being asked to do likely got underneath Belichick's skin - especially if he was making bad decisions.

The interesting thing is the main reason why so many fans are probably so surprised is really due to the fact that they did such a great job of keeping that whole situation in house. In all likelihood had Meriweather never revealed the fact there was ever even an issue, no one would have probably had a clue prior to his revelation last September.

Needless to say between his inconsistent play on the field and those other issues, Belichick obviously decided it was time to go in another direction.

He hid those problems all the way until the end, even up until yesterday when the Patriots coach had said that Meriweather had "gotten better" while speaking with reporters.

"Brandon has been out there every day," Belichick said. "He’s worked hard. He’s been able to do everything and I think he’s gotten better, worked a lot on his man-to-man coverage. He’s out there practicing like everybody else is."

Now he's going to be practicing elsewhere, because his era with this team is over.