Brandon Meriweather Released: What It Means for the New England Patriots

Erik FrenzSenior Writer ISeptember 3, 2011

SAN DIEGO - OCTOBER 24:  Brandon Meriweather #31 of the New England Patriots warms up against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on October 24, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Patrick Chung. Sergio Brown. James Ihedigbo. Josh Barrett.

Those are the names of the remaining safeties on the New England Patriots roster after the Patriots cut Pro Bowl safety Brandon Meriweather on Saturday, according to Pro Football Talk.

Meriweather may have been mystified with the thought of being released, and though the move was considered a shock by some, it was considered a formality by others.

That wide spectrum of reaction is indicative of just how polarizing a character Meriweather is.

He was productive on paper, registering 261 total tackles, two sacks and 12 interceptions in his four-year career to date. Still, Meriweather could never avoid criticism for freelancing, bad angles and worse form tackling.

As such, he was constantly the topic of trade speculation. The most recent shocker like this was the Richard Seymour trade. You'd think Belichick would be after the value of a pick, but the fact Meriweather wasn't traded implies that there was likely no trade value for him.

The news of the release comes fast on the heels of another surprising cut at safety, when the Patriots announced the release of James Sanders, a six-year veteran with 301 career tackles and eight interceptions, just a few days ago.

According to ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss, Meriweather played in 881 of a possible 1,101 defensive snaps in 2010 (80 percent), while Sanders played in 779 (70.8 percent).

That's a lot of experience to lose at safety in one week. Now, the big question turns to what is left at safety for the Patriots.

The motto around the NFL, and particularly with the Patriots, is "next man up." As of right now, it's unclear who that man will be.

Want to talk about depth? On paper, this group is about as deep as a kiddie pool.

Sure, Chung brings a good deal of experience from 2010, with 796 defensive snaps (72.3 percent). Behind him? A who's-who of "who's that?"

Brown played just 86 defensive snaps (7.8 percent) in 2010, recording eight tackles and a fumble recovery. Not exactly numbers you're confident in from a starting safety.

It will be interesting to see how the situation plays out, whether a cornerback shifts to safety or the Patriots make an acquisition. Antwaun Molden has the potential to play there, as does rookie Ras-I Dowling.

Don't rule out a free agent pickup, though. The Patriots brought in safeties Renaldo Hill and Darren Sharper for workouts weeks ago, and though there was no conclusive end to those visits, something may be in the works with the recent dismissal of Meriweather.

Any of those things could happen. Or they could just stand pat.

Maybe it's just "next man up" after all.

Erik Frenz is the co-host of the PatsPropaganda and Frenz podcast. Follow Erik on Twitter @erikfrenz.