The move comes just days after Banta-Cain underwent surgery for an abdominal injury. He was expected to have a four- to five-week recovery period. Banta-Cain could be released as soon as Thursday at 4:01 p.m. ET, when the NFL re-opens waivers.
The eight-year veteran had sustained the injury last season, and in meeting with team doctors at the end of the year, it was decided that no surgery was required. But Banta-Cain tweaked the injury in recent workouts, a source told ESPNBoston.com.
The Patriots signed Banta-Cain to a three-year extension last offseason. He was scheduled to earn a base salary of $2.3 million in 2011, with a salary-cap charge of more than $4 million. By cutting him, the Patriots project to save some on their cap, but the exact number was not immediately clear.
One of the Patriots' top pass-rushers, Banta-Cain compiled 15 sacks the past two seasons in New England. The eight-year veteran played in 15 games in 2010, including six starts, and was second on the team with five sacks. His role was mostly as a pass-rusher in specialty packages.
In 2009, Banta-Cain proved to be one of the best NFL bargains in free agency, joining New England on a modest one-year contract and finishing with 10 sacks.
Banta-Cain's impending release leaves the Patriots thin at the outside linebacker/rush end position. Six-year veteran Rob Ninkovich and 2010 second-round draft choice Jermaine Cunningham are the top two returning players at that spot.
ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss contributed to this report.