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Patriots release Dominique Easley in stunning move

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Former first-round pick Dominique Easley played exceedingly well for the New England Patriots last season when he was healthy. That makes the defensive lineman's release all the more surprising.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Easley was released on Wednesday after playing only 22 games over two seasons. The Patriots later confirmed Easley's release. Tom Curran of Comcast SportsNet New England first reported the news.

After 24 hours no one claimed Easley, a source told Rapoport, making him a free agent.

While injuries have been an issue for Easley, it's hard not to wonder if there is more to the story here. Patriots coach Bill Belichick called Easley an "explosive player that is very disruptive" before last season. Easley only played 275 snaps last year, but he looked like one of the team's best defensive players when healthy. To put it in perspective: ProFootball Focus ranked him as the No. 12 defensive tackle in the league despite the limited playing time.

Easley tore his ACL in both knees in college and ended his rookie season in 2014 with a knee injury. He tore his quadriceps in 2015.

Easley's departure leaves the Patriots thinner on a defensive line that already lost pass rusher Chandler Jones this offseason. Easley had the flexibility to play defensive end or defensive tackle for a team that is thin up the middle. The team has 2015 first-round pick Malcolm Brown, veteran Alan Branch and recent pickup Terrance Knighton at defensive tackle.

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