The New England Patriots went into the offseason looking for depth in some key positions like defensive end and linebacker. They temporarily filled those voids with the signing of veteran defensive end Will Smith and veteran linebacker James Anderson. On Sunday, both players were released along with defensive tackle Tommy Kelly.
Unlike Kelly, who was possibly the only surprise amongst the cuts, Smith and Anderson were fighting for roster spots. The 33-year-old Smith signed a one-year contract after missing all of last season with the New Orleans Saint with a torn ACL. Like Kelly, Smith was hoping to fully recover and still give something to the defense.
At 6-foot-3, 282 pounds, the 10-year veteran was expected to compete for a backup spot behind Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, but with the addition of defensive end Jerel Worthy and emerging second-year defensive end Michael Buchanan, it appears the Patriots have decided to go with youth. Smith also seemed to struggle in the 3-4 defensive scheme. The Patriots could still bring Will Smith back after Week 1.
The 31-year-old Anderson also seemed to struggle in all three preseason games. He was signed to a one-year deal and was projected to add depth as an off-the-line linebacker. Again, it looks as though youth has won out with the impressive play of second-year linebacker Steve Beauharnais. Anderson played 16 games with the Chicago Bears in 2013 after spending the previous seven seasons with the Carolina Panthers.