"He's enjoyed this time in New England, but after meeting with Coach (Bill) Belichick this morning, both parties agreed it was time to move on," Bodden's agent, Alvin Keels, said. "Leigh still has a strong desire to play football and welcomes his next opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl. Leigh is totally healthy and can contribute right away."
The timing of the move was the most surprising aspect, as it came two days before the Patriots' game against the Steelers and came a week after the team's bye.
Cornerback Antwaun Molden, who is a leading candidate to take over Bodden's role as the nickel corner, said he's already learned this is a business. He compared his own situation -- being waived by the Texans near the end of the preseason -- to what was unfolding with Bodden.
"Every guy has a responsibility and the next guy is going to have to step up," he said.
When Bodden was held out of the Oct. 2 game in Oakland, Molden played a season-high 30 snaps as the third cornerback (he was outside, with Kyle Arrington in the slot). It's an important role when considering the Patriots have been in a sub defense (five or more defensive backs) for 60 percent of their snaps.
Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light took the news of Bodden's departure in stride.
"Any time it's a personnel decision, I never get too crazy about it," Light said on Boston sports radio station WEEI. "There are so many things that go on behind the scenes that I never want to deal with, and I never question. Look, at the end of the day, the one thing I think Bill has always done, and has continued to do the entire time I've been here, is make decisions that are in the best interest of the team.
"I leave it at that. I enjoy being around Leigh, I like him as a guy, and it's always tough to see those kind of decisions have to be made. It is what it is and we're going to move forward, and hopefully we can get past this relatively quick. I'm sure we will."
Asked about the report at his Friday morning news conference, Belichick said the team did not have an announcement at that time. When he was asked later about Bodden's play this season, Belichick said: "I think we'll skip that one right now."
Bodden had been battling a thumb injury and was listed as limited in practice this week with the injury.
Because Bodden's release comes after the trade deadline, he will have to pass through waivers before becoming a free agent.
The Patriots have had Devin McCourty and Arrington as their starting corners, with Bodden the third man, followed by Molden in the dime.
Rookie Ras-I Dowling is also on the depth chart, but he's been sidelined since Week 2 with a hip injury (he's doubtful for Sunday), while Phillip Adams -- who has been on and off the roster -- adds another layer of depth.
The Patriots now have an open roster spot, which could go to one of their players on the physically unable to perform list -- running back Kevin Faulk or defensive linemen Ron Brace or Brandon Deaderick.
As for Bodden's time in New England, his first season (2009) was his best. After enduring the Lions' winless season the year before, Bodden was revived with the Patriots and was the team's most consistent corner, leading the club with 17 passes defended while starting on the right side.
He was on a one-year deal at the time, and the performance set him up for a nice free-agent payday, a four-year, $22 million deal (approximately $10 million guaranteed) in which the Patriots were competing with the Texans for his services.
But Bodden missed all of 2010 with a torn rotator cuff sustained in a preseason game.
Bodden was earning $3.9 million this season. The Patriots will pay the remainder of that if he is not claimed on waivers, which reflects how Belichick wasn't pleased with Bodden's performance -- or perhaps his willingness to accept the third corner role -- as he is willing to eat the salary.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. ESPN's Josina Anderson contributed to this report.