The Broncos had waived Barrett with the intention of placing him on season-ending injured reserve, as Barrett was scheduled to undergo shoulder surgery.
The move left many wondering why Barrett had been exposed to waivers in the first place.
In order to prevent teams from stashing young players, NFL rules require that injured players who are not vested veterans must first pass through waivers before being placed on the injured reserve list prior to the 75-man roster cut-down date; this year, that date is Aug. 31. In NFL terms, a vested veteran is a player with four or more credited seasons. Barrett, drafted in 2008, has only two such seasons.
Teams also have the option of moving a player to injured reserve and still having him count against the 80-man roster until the 75-man cut-down date, or keeping the injured player on their active list until that date. In the case of the Broncos, they chose to expose Barrett to waivers.
It is a normal occurrence each preseason in the NFL, and rarely are these waived/injured players claimed by other teams. In August 2009, the Jacksonville Jaguars claimed Don Carey, who was waived/injured by the Cleveland Browns. The Jaguars kept Carey on their 80-man roster until the 75-man cut-down date, at which time they moved him to injured reserve without having to first expose him to waivers.
In the case of Barrett, the Patriots are likely to follow the same procedure, provided that the team feels that he is not healthy enough to play this season.
To make room for Barrett, the Patriots released running back Thomas Clayton, a long shot to make the roster.
Barrett entered the league as a seventh-round draft choice of the Broncos and his primary contributions have come on special teams. As a rookie in Denver, he was coached by current Patriots special-teams coach Scott O'Brien.