The Patriots have informed defensive end Marcus Benard that he has been released, a source confirms.
This is a mild surprise as Benard had been playing a top backup role, while also coming onto the field in sub situations as an interior rusher.
The five-year veteran had a career-high 7.5 sacks in 2010 with the Browns before injuries derailed him the past two years. After signing with the Patriots on Jan. 24 this year, he flashed some pass-rush explosion in training camp as he seemed to be making the most of his fresh start.
With starting ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich entrenched atop the depth chart, Benard had been competing for a reserve role against the likes of Jermaine Cunningham, Justin Francis, Jake Bequette and Michael Buchanan. In recent weeks, Cunningham and Francis were both sidelined with injury, so the 6-foot-2, 260-pound Benard seemed like he might have had some security.
But as we've learned on an annual basis with Bill Belichick, the Patriots often have their fair share of surprises as cutdown day approaches.
Current defensive end depth chart