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The New England Patriots plan to release outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain on Thursday, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
Banta-Cain was New England’s primary pass rusher over the past two seasons, registering 15 sacks in his second stint with the Patriots. He led the team with 10 sacks in 2009, while his five sacks in 2010 were good enough for second on the team, just .5 behind Mike Wright.
The Patriots selected Banta-Cain in the in the 7th round (239 overall) in the 2003 NFL draft out of California. In his first tour with the Pats, Banta-Cain was a key reserve en route to the team’s back-to-back Super Bowl wins (XXXVIII and XXXIX).
Following the 2006 season, Banta-Cain left the Patriots for the greener pastures of San Francisco, signing a three-year deal at $12.2 million before the 49ers cut him prior to the 2009 campaign.
Banta-Cain was expected to make $2.3 million with a salary cap hit of $4 million this season, but abdominal surgery a few days back marked the beginning of the end for the eight-year vet. He is expected to be shelved 4-5 weeks.
He recorded 23.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception in his six years in New England.
The Patriots will now look to Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore and Rob Ninkovich to replace Banta-Cain’s lost production (unless they end up signing Banta-Cain at a lower salary).