Bill Belichick

Since 2000, New England Patriots longtime head coach Bill Belichick has made many difficult decisions when it comes to personnel movement.

Just prior to the 2000 NFL Draft, the Patriots sent the No. 16 pick in the upcoming draft, a fourth-rounder, and a seventh-rounder in 2001 to the New York Jets for the rights to Belichick, a 2001 fifth-rounder, and a 2002 seventh-rounder. From then on, perhaps what was the greatest trade in NFL history shaped the Pats into a dynasty. At the helm of New England's dominance, Belichick led the team to win three titles in four years in the early 2000's, two trips to the Super Bowl in the late 2000's, and two more championship titles in just a span of the last four years.

However, coach Belichick was never afraid to waive big-name players from the Pats in order to stay ahead in such a cutthroat league navigating through the rigors of the hard salary cap.

Here are 10 of the star players coach Belichick has mercilessly cut from the Pats:

10. Brian Waters, offensive guard

Brian Waters
Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images

Brian Waters, who spent 13 seasons in the NFL with three different teams, was an undrafted free agent who eventually became an absolute beast as an offensive lineman. Waters was selected to the Pro Bowl six times, five with the Kansas City Chiefs and once with the Patriots in the 2011-12 season.

He protected Pats legendary quarterback Tom Brady for two seasons before he was released in April of 2013. Waters went on to officially retire from the NFL in September of 2014.

9. Shawn Springs, cornerback

Shawn Springs
Elsa Garrison/Getty Images

Shawn Springs was taken third overall in the 1997 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. Although he enjoyed a very solid career that spanned over 13 seasons in the league, it seemed as if injuries played a key role in him not being able to play up to his true potential.

He played his last season in the NFL with the Patriots in 2009 before Belichick cut him in May of 2010.

8. John Lynch, strong safety

John Lynch
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

You read that correctly. Nine-time Pro Bowl safety John Lynch was indeed a member of the Patriots for a very brief time during the 2008 preseason. After he spent the first 11 seasons of his career as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' star safety, Lynch went on to play his final four years with the Denver Broncos.

When he did not make Belichick's final 53-man roster at the end of the preseason, he was waived by the Pats and officially retired from the NFL later that season. He then spent a considerable amount of time as a color commentator with FOX before he was hired last year as the new general manager of the San Francisco 49ers.

7. Corey Dillon, running back

Corey Dillon
Winslow Townson/AP Photo

Corey Dillon was a really solid running back, especially in his first season with the Patriots in 2004 after New England traded a second-round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals in order to get the star.

In his first year with the Pats after seven seasons in Cincy, Dillon had the best season of his career up to that point. In 15 regular season games, the four-time Pro Bowl running back rushed for 12 touchdowns on the ground to go along with a career-high 1,635 yards on 345 carries. During that postseason in which the Pats won their third Super Bowl in four years, Dillon rushed for a total of 292 yards, caught nine passes for 53 yards, and scored 2 touchdowns in New England's 3 postseason games.

However, Dillon's NFL career would last just two more seasons despite scoring 25 touchdowns combined in the 2005 and 2006 seasons. At the age of 32, Dillon was released by New England in March of 2007 and never played again in the NFL.

6. Willie McGinest, outside linebacker

Willie McGinest
Doug Mills/AP Photo

As a New England Patriots Hall of Fame inductee in 2015, outside linebacker Willie McGinest was a huge part of the team's success when they won three Super Bowl titles in four seasons in the early 2000's.

McGinest holds the current playoff record for most sacks in a single postseason game with 4.5, done in January of 2006 during a 28-3 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. He also has the most career postseason sacks in NFL history with 16.0.

After he was selected No. 4 overall by the Pats in the 1994 NFL Draft, he was finally released by the team in March of 2006 after posting 78.0 career regular-season sacks with New England.

5. Chad Ochocinco, wide receiver

Chad Johnson
Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY

Another former star Cincinnati Bengals player, Chad Ochocinco (Chad Johnson) was one of the most entertaining players in the NFL for years. After he was selected No. 36 overall by the Bengals in the 2001 NFL Draft, Johnson put up great numbers for 10 years in Cincy and was selected to the Pro Bowl six times over that span.

In July of 2011, the Pats acquired Johnson in a trade with Cincinnati after he restructured a three-year contract for $6.35 million. New England traded two draft picks, a fifth-round pick in 2012 and a sixth-round pick in 2013 in exchange for Ochocinco.

Johnson had the least productive season ever in 2011-12 with the Patriots, as he caught just 15 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown in 15 games. He caught one pass for 21 yards during the Pats' 21-17 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl 46 and was eventually released by coach Belichick and the Pats in June of 2012.

4. Lawyer Milloy, strong safety

Lawyer Milloy
Getty Images

One of the Patriots' defensive leaders ever since he was selected No. 36 overall in the 1996 NFL Draft, Lawyer Milloy impact in New England was massive. However, following a fallout with the team to renegotiate his contract, he was suddenly released by the Pats only five days prior to the 2003 season opener and it left teammates shocked.

He went on to have productive seasons with the Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons, and Seattle Seahawks but was never able to get back to the stardom of his New England days. Milloy finished his 15-year NFL career as a safety with 1,033 total tackles, 25 interceptions, 48 pass deflections, and 21.0 sacks.

3. Torry Holt, wide receiver

Torry Holt
Elsa Garrison/Getty Images

Like Lynch, even though wide receiver Torry Holt never suited up for a regular season game for the Patriots, he was a star for many years. In his rookie season with the St. Louis Rams, he helped them win the franchise's first Super Bowl over the Tennessee Titans and their first championship since 1951 while still in Los Angeles.

He was also a part of the Rams' 20-17 loss to the Pats in Super Bowl 36 in 2001, which was New England's first championship since AFL introduction back in 1960.

Holt, after seven Pro Bowl appearances with the Rams in just 10 seasons, then went on to play one year with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2009. In April of 2010, Holt signed a one-year contract with the Pats. However, he was released by the team in August with an injury settlement after he suffered a serious knee injury during practice.

2. Ty Law, cornerback

Ty Law

After he just missed the cut this year to join the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2018, it shouldn't be too much longer until star cornerback Ty Law eventually gets enshrined with eternal greatness. After he was taken with the No. 23 overall pick in the 1995 NFL Draft, Law went on to play in four Super Bowls and won three of them from 1995 until 2005.

Due to his large $12.5 million contract, the Patriots decided to cut him after 10 seasons with the team in order to make cap space. He went on to be highly-successful in 2005 with the New York Jets. He recorded a career-high 10 interceptions on the year and went on to make his fifth and final Pro Bowl appearance that season.

1. Aaron Hernandez, tight end

Aaron Hernandez
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

As you were scrolling, you might have been thinking ‘is he going to mention HIM at all' during this article? Well, I simply couldn't ignore the whole tragic situation for everyone involved and just pretend that it didn't actually happen.

Aaron Hernandez. Yes, this list wouldn't be complete without the former Patriots tight end, considering he was immediately released by the team in June of 2013 following his arrest for the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd.

The tight end tandem of Hernandez and Patriots current star Rob Gronkowski was going to wreak havoc on defenses for years after both were selected by New England in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Last month, well-known authors James Patterson and Alex Abramovich published a book that went in-depth about the alleged Hernandez murders and his eventual suicide in April of 2017. There was also a “48 Hours” special about Hernandez that was aired on CBS late in January.

Honorable Mentions

  • WR Deion Branch
  • WR Joey Galloway
  • ILB Roman Phifer
  • OLB Rosevelt Colvin
  • RB Leon Washington
  • QB Tim Tebow
  • OLB Adalius Thomas
  • WR Brandon Lloyd

Usually, nearly two decades in one spot will see incredible names piled up as casualties. But man, this list reminds us once again why the New England Patriots are where they are today: Bill Belichick and his people understand value when it comes to skill coupled with the salary cap.