|Patriots begin cuts with release of Deion Branch, Brian Hoyer and Dan Koppen||08.31.12 at 2:25 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Four big-name Patriots were released Friday afternoon before the team’s 4 p.m. practice as the team began its final cutdown to 53 players by the 9 p.m. NFL deadline.
The biggest name is Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch, a release first reported by Shalise Manza-Young of The Boston Globe. The 33-year-old Branch has played 10 years in the NFL, including the better part of six seasons with the Patriots. The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Branch had 51 catches for 702 yards and five touchdowns last season.
Branch expressed his appreciation for his time in New England Friday afternoon on his Twitter page. Truly thankful for all the support from everybody. I Love You guys #LovePeaceandHappiness
According to league sources and various reports as of Friday at 1:30 p.m., the Patriots also cut back-up quarterback Brian Hoyer, offensive lineman Dan Koppen and defensive back James Ihedigbo in their attempt to get down to 53 players before the league-mandated deadline of Friday at 9 p.m.
The moves also cleared over $5 million in cap space on the 2012 Patriots roster. The release of Hoyer ($1.927 million), Ihedigbo ($765,000), Koppen ($1.375 million) and Branch ($1.325 million) total of $5.392 million in freed cap space.
Koppen, 32, has been with the Patriots since 2003, when he was drafted out of Boston College. The former Pro Bowler has started 120 regular-season games over the course of his career in New England and was a member of the 2003 and 2004 Super Bowl champions. The 6-foot-2, 300-pounder had struggled over the course of the summer but had played better as of late.
As for Hoyer, he had served as a backup to Tom Brady since he was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State in 2009. In limited regular-season action, the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder had gone 27-for-43 for 286 yards with one touchdown and one interception over the course of his career in New England.
The 28-year-old Ihedigbo, who tweeted his dismissal on Friday afternoon, played one season with New England, finishing the 2011 campaign with 69 tackles (46 solo) in 16 games, 12 of them starts. Ihedigbo, 6-foot-1 and 214 pounds, is a product of UMass.
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