The New England Patriots have made some releases on the defensive line that I don’t agree with, and the decision to release Justin Francisis just downright baffling. ESPN Boston’s Field Yates reported the news of the Patriots sending Justin Francis on his way out of Foxboro, and the fact that Francis doesn’t even have practice squad eligibility means that he is free to sign onto another team’s 53-man roster and be a decent backup.
New England Patriots defensive end Justin Francis (94) celebrates after sacking San Francisco 49ers quarterbackColin Kaepernick
(not pictured) during the fourth quarter at Gillette Stadium. The San Francisco 49ers won 41-34. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
I will say that Francis isn’t really even a good player, but he is a quality backup at defensive end. More importantly, releasing the former UDFA out of Rutgers leaves the Patriots pretty thin at defensive end, because now the only backups are Michael Buchanan and Jake Bequette following the cuts of Jermaine Cunningham and Marcus Benard. My question is, do you really trust Bequette to be the No. 4 DE on the roster after his poor preseason? He has upside, but he hasn’t shown much development heading into his second year, and there is little doubt in my mind that Francis has been the better player.
Beyond that, I read earlier in training camp that a few Patriots players had Justin Francis tabbed as a darkhorse breakout candidate, and he received plenty of playing time last season. Francis has more experience than Bequette, more past production, and he is also a good run-stopping defensive end. The Patriots would rather have more pass rushing out of their DEs, but Francis has been a more consistent pass rusher than Bequette and showed some flashes last season. Cutting Francis leaves the Patriots even more thin on the defensive line, and the decisions to cut all three of Marcus Forston, Benard, and Francis is just baffling. I usually don’t vehemently disagree with moves that the Patriots have made, but I can’t find myself agreeing with the decision to cut ties with Justin Francis.