Finances play a big role: Gregory was a lightning rod among fans based on his play and some missed tackles, but I don't think this move can be boiled down solely to his performance. It's more about the play relative to salary, as Gregory was scheduled to earn $2.25 million in base salary in 2013 and the Patriots will save $2.85 million on their cap by releasing him. Gregory played 72.7 percent of the defensive snaps last season and was touted by teammates as being one of the smartest players they've been around. Gregory will almost certainly play somewhere in 2014, it just won't be at those numbers.
Why not take a pay cut? With that in mind, the question comes to the forefront: Why wouldn't the Patriots approach Gregory about taking a pay cut? My understanding is that the team didn't and I'd file it into the category of them not wanting to disrespect a veteran player like Gregory (8 seasons) because any reduction would likely be closer to the veteran minimum. If Gregory doesn't get more than that elsewhere, I would say the door is still open on his return depending on what other pieces fall into place. It's easier for a player to accept that type of cut when there is the realization the other 31 teams assign him a similar value.
Gregory's take: I caught up with Gregory briefly on Friday afternoon and his remarks were complimentary of the Patriots. "I had a great time in New England and respect the organization a lot," he said. "It was time well-spent and I learned a lot. Obviously, you never want to get released from a team. There will be other opportunities and it's on good terms. ...The fans were great. The whole atmosphere out there was unbelievable. It was a great time of my life that I'll always remember.”
Harmon is next man up: Duron Harmon, the Patriots' 2013 third-round pick out of Rutgers, is the next man on the depth chart. The 6-foot-0, 205-pound Harmon played 36.9 percent of the defensive snaps last season, starting three games when Gregory was sidelined with a broken thumb. The Patriots could still add to the position in free agency or the draft, with free agency the deeper and more expensive option. At this point, Harmon would seem to have the inside track on a top role. Third-year player Tavon Wilson, who slid down the depth chart in 2013, is also at the position. Veteran safety Adrian Wilson, who spent last year on injured reserve and seemed to be in jeopardy of not making the club at the end of preseason, is also currently on the roster.