Tommy Kelly, Will Smith released

Updated: August 24, 2014, 8:52 PM ET
By Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Veteran defensive linemen Tommy Kelly and Will Smith, both of whom were coming off torn ACLs from the 2013 season, were released by the New England Patriots on Sunday, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reports.

In addition, veteran linebacker James Anderson was informed of his release, according to Schefter.

None of the moves come as a major surprise, although the 33-year-old Kelly was a starter before his knee injury last season and had been working with the first unit for much of the preseason. Still, his spot was not viewed as a lock as the Patriots have not been tipping their defensive intentions from a scheme perspective in training camp and the preseason.

Kelly, a longtime Oakland Raider (2004-2012), played in five games last season before injuring his knee Oct. 5 against the Bengals. He attempted to come back later that season by returning to practice, but ultimately was shut down and underwent ACL surgery. In the offseason, he had restructured the final year of his contract in 2014, which was a sign that his stay in New England wasn't a sure thing. 

Meanwhile, the 33-year-old Smith had signed a one-year contract with the Patriots on May 5 after spending the first 10 years of his career with the Saints. He had missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

[+] EnlargeTommy Kelly
AP Images/Bill WippertTommy Kelly was a starter for the Patriots before his knee injury last season. He had been working with the first unit for much of the preseason.

Smith was expected to compete for a backup spot behind Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich as an end-of-the-line player in the Patriots' scheme, but seemed to be playing out of position as the club utilized a 3-4 alignment in training camp and had Smith playing inside the tackles at end. While a powerful player at 6-foot-3 and 282 pounds, he was undersized for the role and it didn't seem to play to his strengths.

The 31-year-old Anderson played for the Panthers (2006-2012) and Bears (2013) before signing a one-year deal with the Patriots on June 4. He was projected to add depth as an off-the-line linebacker behind starters Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins. But he played in just eight snaps in Friday's preseason win over the Panthers, despite the fact Mayo was sidelined with an undisclosed injury, which was the first sign that his spot on the roster might be on shaky ground. Because backup linebackers are often relied upon on special teams, Anderson's limited work in that area during training camp and the preseason was also notable.

With NFL teams required to cut rosters to 75 players by Aug. 26, and then to 53 players by Aug. 30, the release of veterans Kelly, Smith and Anderson give the veterans a head start to catch on elsewhere.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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