The first big surprises of cut day came early.
A source confirmed to NFL Network that the New England Patriots have released wide receiver Deion Branch. A source told NFL.com and NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport that the Patriots have released quarterback Brian Hoyer. Longtime center Dan Koppen also has been released, NFL Network learned.
The Hoyer news was first reported by Adam Caplan of SiriusXM NFL Radio. The Patriots later confirmed all the moves Friday night.
Back in May, we wondered which veteran receivers would survive the crowded Patriots group. For the guys on the bubble, the answer proved to be: None.
Jabar Gaffney, Donte' Stallworth and Branch are gone. Anthony Gonzalez and Chad Johnson are distant memories. The Patriots are keeping young players at other positions rather than loading up with older wideouts.
Despite Ryan Mallett's rough preseason, the second-year pro won the job to back up Tom Brady over Hoyer. New England has trusted Hoyer behind Brady for the past three years, and he generally has looked good when called upon.
Rapoport reported that the plan was to gauge Hoyer's trade value or have him take a lesser salary, but clearly those avenues didn't work out.
It has to be a tough day for Brady, since Branch and Koppen were among his closest friends on the Patriots. The moves also leave Brady and Vince Wilfork as the only two Patriots who won titles with the team.
The Koppen news doesn't come as a great surprise, although it couldn't have been easy for coach Bill Belichick, considering Koppen's long history with the team. Koppen has struggled to recover from injuries, however.
As Belichick has shown time and again, he's not sentimental with roster spots. He's worried about what you can do in the future, not what you have done in the past.Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.