The Patriots' release of fourth-year defensive lineman Brandon Deaderick registers as a mild surprise at this time on the NFL calendar.
The part-time starter next to Vince Wilfork at defensive tackle in the team's 4-3 alignment was expected to face increased competition for a roster spot in 2013 after the Patriots signed free agents Armond Armstead and Tommy Kelly, so if he didn't make the final 53-man roster at the end of training camp it wouldn't have been a major surprise.
But given his past contributions, and the fact that big, strong defensive linemen with position flexibility are hard to find, few were expecting the Patriots to let him go in the middle of May. The timing leads one to believe there might be a reason other than on-field performance factoring into the decision to release him.
Deaderick, who joined the team as a seventh-round draft choice out of Alabama in 2010, played 34 percent of the defensive snaps last season. He started next to Wilfork in some of the club's most important games down the stretch and finished the year with 14 tackles, one sack and two forced fumbles.
Deaderick (6-4, 305) played 28 percent of the defensive snaps in 2011 and 20 percent of the defensive snaps in 2010. When the Patriots ran a 3-4 defense, his best fit was at left end. In the 4-3 scheme, he was mostly at tackle, although he did play end at times in a game-specific heavier package geared toward stopping the run.
Patriots projected defensive tackle depth chart