BY NICK ST. DENIS
The New England Patriots had to let go of some relatively important depth players Friday, but with Bill Belichick's squad, everything's part of a master plan. His most recent plan is to get younger, as evident by the cutting of some veterans who were contributors to New England's 2011 game day roster and/or projected backups who were very close to being starters.
WR Deion Branch, S Sergio Brown, DL Marcus Harrison, WR Jesse Holley, QB Brian Hoyer, S James Ihedigbo, OL Matt Kopa, C Dan Koppen, LB Niko Koutouvides, S Derrick Martin, LB Jeff Tarpinian, S Malcolm Williams, FB Eric Kettani, DL Aaron Lavarias, TE Alex Silvestro, WR Kerry Taylor, OL Derek Dennis, TE Tyler Urban, OL Dustin Waldron, OL Jeremiah Warren, OL Darrion Weems.
Note: New England also placed rookie Jeff Demps on injured reserve.
Demps' injury early in the week against the New York Giants didn't appear to be too serious, reported as a minor "tweak" in his leg, but New England didn't want to let him go and allow him to get picked up by another team, so they'll put the speedy Olympian on ice for a year and make him a contributor starting next season.
The release of Branch is intriguing, given the fact that the Patriots had already cut Jabar Gaffney and Donte' Stallworth. New England has Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker as its top wideouts to join recently-extended tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez in quarterback Tom Brady's arsenal. At least one of the three released receivers could end up in the division by the start of the regular season.
Koppen could find himself on another roster soon, as he lost a competition at center with Dan Connolly but could be a backup at worst. The same goes for Ihedigbo, who will serve another team's special teams group well and could provide safety depth.
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