Patriots waive rookie LB Deontae Skinner

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Rookie linebacker Deontae Skinner, an undrafted free agent who played more than expected on defense early this season, was waived by the New England Patriots on Wednesday. The open roster spot was created to accommodate the previously reported signing of veteran defensive tackle Alan Branch, which the club formally announced.

Skinner, out of Mississippi State, played in seven games with one start this season, and coaches credited him with nine tackles and one sack. When starting middle linebacker Jerod Mayo sustained a season-ending torn patellar tendon on Oct. 12, Skinner was elevated from the fourth spot on the depth chart to the third, meaning he often came on to the field in the 4-3 base defense.

Skinner's release came four days after he missed a tackle early in Sunday's victory over the Chicago Bears, and after two trades over the last week in which the Patriots acquired linebackers Akeem Ayers (Titans) and Jonathan Casillas (Buccaneers).

At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, Skinner is more of a downhill run-thumper who also played on the "big four" special teams units -- kickoff coverage, kickoff return, punt coverage and punt return. Coaches credited him with five special-teams tackles this season.

Casillas, who has proven to be a solid special-teams player in his first six NFL seasons, is likely to fill Skinner's void in that area.

Should Skinner clear waivers, he likely will be re-signed to the Patriots' practice squad.