As the owner of two UPS stores, linebacker Rosevelt Colvin takes pride in running successful businesses and striking lucrative deals. He had even suggested to Patriots owner Robert Kraft that perhaps he'd open his own store in Patriot Place, the development surrounding Gillette Stadium.
Colvin also knows when a business deal is on shaky ground, which is why he knew his return to the Patriots for the final year of his contract was anything but guaranteed.
Colvin was set to carry a $7.6 million salary cap charge into the season, the second richest on the club behind that of quarterback Tom Brady, and was scheduled to make a base salary of $5.5 million. Considering that he was coming off a serious foot injury that prematurely ended his 2007 season, he realized his time in New England could be coming to an end.
The Patriots yesterday released Colvin and linebacker Oscar Lua, a 2007 seventh-round draft choice who spent last season on injured reserve after hurting his knee in an exhibition game.
By cutting the 30-year-old Colvin, the Patriots save $5.8 million on their salary cap as they prepare for the start of free agency Friday at 12:01 a.m.
Colvin's departure, while not unexpected, creates more uncertainty at arguably the Patriots' most uncertain position.
As it stands, the team has only six linebackers scheduled to return next season: starters Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel, and reserves Eric Alexander, Larry Izzo, T.J. Slaughter, and Pierre Woods. That number would increase if veterans Tedy Bruschi and Junior Seau, both of whom are free agents, put off retirement.
Colvin started at outside linebacker in the 3-4 alignment, where his main responsibilities were rushing the passer and setting a strong edge to force running plays inside. He would also occasionally drop into pass coverage, although he was considered at his best when moving forward. At times, he privately became frustrated when he felt he wasn't being employed in an attacking role.
Teams that use a 3-4 base often have trouble finding an outside linebacker who fits their system, sometimes relying on a defensive end leaving a 4-3 scheme to make the transition. Colvin successfully made the switch after playing end in the Bears' 4-3 defense from 1999-2002.
The Patriots could fill the outside spot with Thomas, their top free agent addition last offseason. Thomas opened last season playing inside linebacker, but moved outside after Colvin was lost for the season Nov. 25, and played arguably his best game in the Super Bowl.
But if the Patriots move Thomas to a permanent role outside, it leaves them with a significant gap in the middle of their defense. A switch to more 4-3 schemes could alleviate that issue.
Colvin arrived in Foxborough in 2003 as a highly touted free agent, signing a six-year deal with a $6 million signing bonus. At the time it was one of the richest free agent deals the Patriots had consummated under coach Bill Belichick and vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli.
In his second regular-season game with the Patriots, however, Colvin suffered a career-threatening hip injury. After a grueling rehabilitation, he returned in 2004, playing mostly as a reserve. Five games into the 2005 season, he had reestablished himself as a full-time starter, a role he carried through last season.
Colvin led the Patriots in sacks in 2005 (7) and 2006 (8 1/2). In 10 games last season, he had four sacks and 28 tackles.
Speaking on sports radio WEEI yesterday before he was released, Colvin indicated that he had been rehabbing his injured foot at Gillette Stadium the last month and a half. He said the injury did not require surgery, only rest.
"Going through rehab is a tedious and time-consuming situation, but through prayers and through discipline, hopefully I'll be ready to roll in 2008," Colvin said.
Before being informed of his release, Colvin also said he hoped to return to the Patriots, but the decision was not up to him. He had been due a $300,000 roster bonus.
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.