After releasing linebacker Tully Banta-Cain on Monday night, the Patriots re-signed him on Tuesday morning, a team source told ESPN Insider Adam Schefter.
This was expected, and here is what I think happened:
Banta-Cain was playing under a one-year, $620,000 contract that qualified for the veteran minimum benefit.
It is my understanding that players under a veteran minimum benefit contract can not have their contract extended until after the league year.
Reading the tea leaves with Banta-Cain, it appears both Banta-Cain and the Patriots decided they wanted to make this a longer-term relationship, and figured "Why wait until after the season?" The only way to make that happen now was to rip up the veteran minimum benefit contract, and strike a brand new, longer-term agreement. While Banta-Cain returns on a one-year deal, the opportunity is presumably there to extend him in the coming weeks. By making this move, the Patriots avoid Banta-Cain having to go through the waiver process, which begins tomorrow for veteran players.
As an additional note, the veteran minimum benefit contract is designed to help older players. There was a feeling in some circles in recent years that older players were being squeezed out of the league in favor of cheaper, younger talent on the salary cap.
The veteran minimum benefit contract, always for one year, makes it easier for teams to keep veterans because the salary cap charge is less than the salary.
Also, it should be noted that special teamer Eric Alexander, who was also released, was re-signed Tuesday by the Patriots to a one-year deal that could be extended.