TE Zach Sudfeld Released by New England Patriots, Claimed by Jets

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistOctober 3, 2013

In a move that will come as a surprise to many who pegged him a breakout star in the preseason, the New England Patriots announced the release of undrafted rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld on Thursday.

Sudfeld's sudden cut came in a series of transactions, sent to the media via New England's official website

UPDATE: Friday, Oct. 4

From the New York Jets:

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UPDATE: Friday, Oct. 4

From Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun:

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Original Text

The Pats officially signed wide receiver Austin Collie and placed defensive tackle Vince Wilfork on the irrevocable injured reserve. Collie, who has had difficulties with concussions throughout his career, was released by the San Francisco 49ers in August. Wilfork tore his Achilles in last week's win over the Atlanta Falcons. 

Although neither the Wilfork move nor the Collie move is a bombshell, Sudfeld's release is at least a mild surprise. 

With Rob Gronkowski still out of the lineup recovering from five surgeries in the past year and Aaron Hernandez released amid being charged with first-degree murder, Sudfeld emerged in the preseason as a possible breakout candidate.   

An undrafted free-agent signing, he was considered the likely starter at tight end by the end of training camp. There were also some who gave Sudfeld considerable hype as a fantasy football sleeper, with the Patriots' offense becoming renowned for its heavy use of tight ends.

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Aug 16, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Zach Sudfeld (44) makes a reception for a touchdown while defended by Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Najee Goode (53) during the second quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

However, Sudfeld's emergence never came. He served as the No. 2 tight end behind blocking specialist Michael Hoomanawanui and suffered a hamstring injury in the Patriots' opening-week win over the Buffalo Bills. 

After sitting out Week 2 to recover, Sudfeld struggled to regain his spot on the New England depth chart. Hoomanawanui and Matthew Mulligan both received more snaps than Sudfeld in each of the past two games. In fact, the 24-year-old California native received only eight offensive snaps in Sunday's win over Atlanta.

Chris Villani of WEEI also reported that Sudfeld was still limited in practices by the ailing hamstring. With the former Nevada standout providing only limited value as a special teams player, Bill Belichick viewed him as an expendable commodity. 

Sudfeld failed to make a reception and received only two targets in the first quarter of the season. Provided he clears waivers, the Patriots would be able to add him to their eight-man practice squad. 

Jul 30, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski watches drills during training camp at the practice fields of Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

More notably, his departure could make way for Gronkowski's return. The All-Pro tight end has missed each of New England's first four games while working to get back to 100 percent, and his return has seemed imminent for weeks.

Despite reports of a rift between the club and Gronkowski—there was word that the Patriots were upset that he wasn't playing yet, with Gronkowski having practiced fully for a couple weeks—the 24-year-old star tight end told ESPN's Field Yates that both parties were on the same page. 

Having Gronkowski and Sudfeld on the active roster would have given New England four tight ends for Week 5's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The notoriously tight-lipped Patriots have not given any indication on the matter, other than to list Gronkowski as questionable.

They are 4-0 heading into Week 5 with a one-game lead over the Miami Dolphins in the AFC East.

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