New England Patriots: Cutdown analysis

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Biggest surprise: The New England Patriots' most startling moves happened long before Saturday. They dropped backup quarterbacks Kevin O'Connell and Andrew Walter and said goodbye to linebacker Tedy Bruschi.

Still, there were some intriguing transactions before the 6 p.m. deadline.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick repeatedly stated the competition at tight end was the best he has seen. But he obviously wasn't satisfied with Chris Baker, Benjamin Watson, David Thomas Alex Smith.

The Patriots acquired Michael Matthews from the New York Giants for an undisclosed draft pick and sent Thomas to the New Orleans Saints reportedly for a 2011 seventh-round pick. The Patriots released Smith.

Linebacker Shawn Crable was assigned to injured reserve a second straight year. The 78th overall draft choice in 2008 has yet to play an NFL game.

Of the youngsters dumped from the roster, the most notable was defensive lineman Darryl Richard, the last of a dozen players the Patriots drafted in April.

No-brainers: The Patriots were forced to keep five running backs because second-year pro BenJarvus Green-Ellis had such a great preseason. Every time he has gotten an opportunity, he has produced. Veteran Sammy Morris was on the bubble, but was retained.

Undrafted rookie Terrence Nunn had a fine camp and preseason, finishing with eight catches for 133 yards. But there simply was no room on the depth chart for him.

What's next: The most obvious opening on the Patriots' roster is at quarterback, and they need veteran support. The Patriots have only two, Tom Brady and undrafted rookie Brian Hoyer.

But the Patriots are never set any position. With Belichick running the show, there's never a time for players at the bottom of the 53-man roster to exhale. Belichick will examine every name on the waiver wire for players who can upgrade even the lowest spots on the depth chart. Expect more tweaking over the next few days.