The Patriots thinned their wide receiver depth by one on Thursday morning, cutting ties with Michael Jenkins, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
The move doesn't come as a major surprise for a couple of reasons, leading with the fact the Patriots’ young trio of rookie receivers has assimilated quickly into the offense. Draft picks Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce have flashed during camp, and undrafted free agent Kenbrell Thompkins has been perhaps the most impressive of the bunch, displaying precise route-running and an understanding of the offensive concepts in New England.
Additionally, Jenkins has been slowed by an injury of late, one that was suffered prior to the first preseason game. Jenkins appeared to suffer a left thigh or hamstring injury during a practice, and has been limited since that time. That's opened the door for rookies to earn more reps, which they've made the most of.
Jenkins was a low-risk signing this offseason, as the Patriots gave him a one-year deal with a non-guaranteed base salary (he had an offseason bonus of $15,000, which, even if he did earn, is a small price to pay for his veteran presence this offseason). He was never viewed as a difference-maker for this offense, but he would have been a steady veteran playing on the perimeter if the rookies didn't come along as fast as the Patriots hoped.
A final factor to consider is that Bill Belichick might have wanted to release Jenkins sooner rather than later as a sign of respect to the veteran and to allow him to try and sign elsewhere. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan mentioned that he did so to Devery Henderson, another veteran receiver who was released Wednesday. Rather than waiting until the end of training camp, the Patriots may have released Jenkins now with the understanding that he wasn't going to make the roster.
The biggest takeaway from this all remains that the Patriots appear confident in their young receiving corps, one of the biggest questions leading into training camp.