Dec 18, 2011; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens (10) attempts a pass as Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Jonathan Fanene (68) pressures him during the second half at the Edward Jones Dome. The Bengals defeated the Rams 20-13. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE

New England Patriots release Jonathan Fanene

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In a surprising move, the New England Patriots released veteran backup defensive tackle Jonathan Fanene after signing him to a three-year deal with a big $3.85 million signing bonus. Fanene hasn’t been healthy this offseason and will likely under go knee surgery at some point this week.

Releasing Fanene comes as a surprise on the surface, but the Patriots likely know something about the knee injury the 30-year-old DT is facing that we don’t. He recorded 6.5 sacks last season in limited snaps, and Fanene also made some good plays against the run for the Cincinnati Bengals as well.

His release means that both Ron Brace and Brandon Deaderick are going to make the roster, as they have seen their snaps increase. It was once believed to be a battle between the two, but it looks like both of them are in. Brace is shedding the “bust” label by showing his power and physical ability, and he had a big game against the Philadelphia Eagles with a near-sack on Nick Foles. He’s been disruptive in camp, which is a great sign for the former second-rounder.

The New England Patriots also released kicker Chris Koepplin and tackle Kyle Hill in two unsurprising moves. Fanene’s release was a sudden development yesterday, and the Patriots lose a solid two-way veteran DT when healthy. But he’s not healthy, and it looks like this knee injury is more serious than once thought.

The big thing is that the Patriots released a solid player and swallowed up nearly $4 million only to receive nothing. Justin Francis and Marcus Fortson stand to benefit from this release, as they now have a better chance to make the roster. Brace and Deaderick need to step up in Fanene’s stead, as both are now locked in as the backups to Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love.

Losing this much money this early on a free agent acquisition is tough, but the injury must be serious for the Pats to drop him now. The Fanene story definitely isn’t over yet.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

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