Patriots Release Willie McGinest

Free agency is bout to arrive and it's taking it's toll on New England's roster already. The Patriots could conceivably lose three-fourths of the players who were with the team in the 1996 Super Bowl. Veteran linebacker Willie McGinest was released today. McGinest, a 12-year veteran was looking for a new deal before the start of free agency, but that turned out to not be in the cards. Other free agents who were on the '96 team include K Adam Vinatieri and WR Troy Brown.

Going:

A team spokesperson has confirmed to Patriots Insider that LB Willie McGinest has been granted his release. Earlier reports that McGinest had been released minutes after the NFL owners agreed to extend the current CBA, proved accurate. As reported earlier by Patriots Insider, McGinest had a high cap charge of reportedly over $7 million, and a contract scheduled to pay him a $3.5 million bonus in what McGinest admitted was a "Ghost year." McGinest understood the team was not going to honor the final year of the contract and had hoped to rework his deal prior to being released. (Related: negotiations turn south)

McGinest, 34, is coming off a record-setting year when he managed 4 ½ sacks against the Jaguars to set a NFL postseason sack record. He currently has 16 postseason sacks which place him ahead of Bruce Smith (14 1/2 ) and Reggie White (12).

The former USC defender has spent his entire career with the Patriots after being drafted by New England in the first round of the 1994 NFL Draft (4th overall). Originally a defensive end in college, McGinest moved to outside linebacker and has excelled in the 3-4 scheme run by the the team. He was one of four current members of the team that had been in four of the Patriots five Super Bowls, the others being WR Troy Brown, LB Tedy Bruschi and K Adam Vinatieri.

McGinest, a 12-year veteran of the Patriots has experience in Bill Belichick's 3-4 defense, a system similar to what the New York Jets, Cleveland Browns and the Dallas Cowboys run. Those teams are headed by coaches who all have experience working with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, and are all reported to be in the market for a solid outside linebacker.

A league source has told Patriots Insider that the Patriots hope to bring McGinest back to the negotiating table to work out a more cap-friendly deal. He is expected to draw interest from a number of teams including Dallas, Cleveland, San Diego and the New York Jets among others.

Willie McGinest and Jarvis Green sack byron Leftwich in the Patriots wildcard playoff victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars Jan. 7, 2006 (Photo: Getty images)

Coming:

The Patriots have confirmed that defensive back Artrell Hawkins return to the team is now official. Hawkins reportedly agreed to a new deal a couple of days ago, but the team held off an official announcement until Thursday.

Hawkins served as a reserve defensive back for the Patriots last season and quickly moved into the starting lineup as injuries mounted in the team's secondary. Originally signed by the Patriots as a street free agent November 15, 2005, the former Cincinnati cornerback moved to safety and started four of the five games he appeared in.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound defender was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft (43rd overall). He spent time with the Bengals (1998-2003), Carolina Panthers (2004) and the Patriots (2005).

Offensive lineman Ross Tucker agreed to a one-year deal earlier in the week.

Still Pending:

There are a number of other veterans on the Patriots roster expected to hit the free agent market. The list includes: K Adam Vinatieri; WRs David Givens, Troy Brown, Andre Davis and Tim Dwight; LB Matt Chatham, RB Heath Evans, DBs Michael Stone and Chad Scott, OL Tom Ashworth and Stephen Neal, TE Christian Fauria and QB Doug Flutie.

Related: McGinest Profile || Hawkins Profile || Free Agent Tracker || More Free Agency Articles


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