Though the Patriots have released over half of their original receiving corps from March, the biggest shocker on cut-down day Friday was New England's release of backup quarterback Brian Hoyer.
Hoyer, who had been with the Pats since 2009, is now a free agent and it appears the Patriots will carry just two quarterbacks this season.
The thinking is that a valuable roster space will open up elsewhere (think the Pats could use a couple extra offensive linemen?), but Hoyer's departure from the only NFL franchise he has ever known is a relative stunner.
He had absorbed the Patriots playbook over the past few years and mimicked Tom Brady in every possible way - in drills, in preparation, even in body language. Across the league, Hoyer was regarded as one of the better backup signal-callers and it was thought by many over the past two years that if he ever was to leave the Patriots it would come via trade. His value was that of at least a fourth or fifth round pick at several points.
NFL Network's Mike Lombardi, once the Raiders general manager, had reportedly interviewed for the 49ers then-vacant GM job in late 2010 and Lombardi said that had he gotten the job, his first move would have been making a trade for Hoyer.
Beyond his value on the trade market, Hoyer had a handle on the Patriots playbook much better than Ryan Mallett and it showed throughout the preseason. Of course, Hoyer's main issue was that he didn't have the arm strength to keep up with the cannon-armed Mallett.
The Patriots are banking on the fact that Mallett can ace the playbook at some point this season. But as New England found out in the 2008 season opener against Kansas City, a Tom Brady catastrophe is just one play away. Having a quarterback that has been ingrained in the system for several years (like Hoyer and, at that time, Matt Cassel), would have been the safer route.