NEPD Staff Writer: Matthew Jones
The Patriots began roster cutdowns yesterday by releasing three players: defensive backs Josh Barrett and Ross Ventrone as well as defensive tackle Gerard Warren. Of the three, Warren was considered the player most likely to make New England’s 53-man roster.
One young tight end, however, isn’t going anywhere.
Hernandez joins fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski as signing long-term extensions well before they were to enter free agency, a marked departure from the New England Patriots usual modus operandi.
According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, the extension runs through 2018. Financial terms of the deal haven’t been disclosed as of yet, but I’m sure the potential drama about franchising Hernandez with the tight end tag was certainly a factor in sparking a deal.
The 34-year old Warren joined New England in 2010, appearing in all 16 contests including ten starts; Warren totaled 28 tackles and 3.5 sacks during the season. His role was reduced in 2011, appearing in 12 games with no starts and making 12 tackles on the season with one sack as well. Warren played a variety of positions along the defensive line during his time in New England: defensive end and nose tackle in the 3-4 as well as defensive tackle in the 4-3.
He was a well-rounded player who could not only defend against the run adequately but also pressure quarterbacks in the passing game, owing to his combination of size (6’4″, 330) and athleticism. Warren was a popular player in the locker room, especially close with starting nose tackle Vince Wilfork. However, Warren was unable to practice or play during the preseason due to an undisclosed injury; his absence coupled with New England’s deep rotation at defensive tackle (Wilfork, Kyle Love, Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick, Marcus Forston, Marcus Harrison) caused him a spot on the team.
Whether Warren will retire or remain on New England’s “emergency list” remains to be seen; the Patriots did not begin the 2011 season with Warren on their 53-man roster, instead opting to sign him in September when his contract was no longer fully guaranteed.
New England originally added Josh Barrett by claiming him on waivers after the Denver Broncos placed him on the waived/injured list with a shoulder injury in August 2010; the move recalls the Patriots’ addition of Jake Ballard this season, who was also waived/injured. Barrett did not appear in action for New England in 2010 after being placed on injured reserve, but played in five games with four starts during the 2011 season. However, Barrett was ultimately unable to stay on the field; he missed three games while nursing multiple injuries and eventually landed on injured reserve again with a calf injury after just 222 snaps. Barrett’s play in the secondary was adequate but his lack of durability was likely among New England’s motivations for overhauling the safety position this offseason through the additions of players such as Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson, and Nate Ebner.
Ross Ventrone is no stranger to being waived; the defensive back has been signed or released by New England over 20 times since last season. He appeared in eight games for the Patriots last season, primarily as a special teams contributor. Ventrone had been trying to make the team as a cornerback after transitioning from safety; the 25 year-old remains a candidate for New England’s practice squad in 2012.
New England must release seven more players by 4:00 PM today in order to meet the 75-player roster cutdown deadline.