To the surprise of no one, high-priced, former free agent Adalius Thomas finally has been released by the Patriots, who are not exactly loaded at outside linebacker.
They're solid on one side, with Tully Banta-Cain, whose 10 sacks last season were twice as many as other New England defender.
On the other side, however, the Pats have only a couple of "JAGs" -- a Bill Parcells acronym for "just a guy" -- in journeymen Pierre Woods and Rob Ninkovich, along with the oft-injured, untested Shawn Crable, a third-round draft choice in 2008 who has yet to play his first NFL game, having spent all of last year, as well of the second half of his rookie year, on the injured reserve list.
So it appears the opportunity exists for second-round draft choice Jermaine Cunningham to see a significant amount of playing time -- if, that is, he can adjust to playing "up" as a linebacker, after having been "down," as an end, for the Florida Gators.
"He was really an outstanding player for Florida," Pats coach Bill Belichick said Friday night, after selecting the 6-foot-3, 266-pound Cunningham with New England's second pick in the second round.
Asked if Cunningham could play outside linebacker, Belichick replied:
"He played on the end of the line of scrimmage, let's put it that way. They used him in coverage some last year. He's a pretty athletic kid. They did drop him into coverage some. I wouldn't say he was an outside linebacker. He was an end for them. But he did do some outside linebacker-type duties. We'll see how all that goes. I think he's an end of the line player. Whether that's up, or down, we will see."
Given the situation, it will be disappointing if Cunningham doesn't see plenty of playing time for the Patriots this fall, either as an end in New England's base, 3-4 alignment, in the 4-man front the Pats often employ on passing downs, or at OLB, where playmakers appear to be in short supply.