NFL: AFC Wild Card-Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots

Tom Brady high-fives wide receiver Mohamed Sanu before the Patriots' playoff game against the Titans in January.

The first unexpected cut of camp is here. Mohamed Sanu is being released by the Patriots, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The veteran wide receiver struggled to stand out at training camp, and the team saves $6.5 million against the salary cap by cutting him.

Sanu was a 2019 trade deadline acquisition. Coach Bill Belichick dealt a second-round pick in hopes Sanu, 31, would kickstart Tom Brady’s sluggish offense. That never happened.

In half a season with the Patriots, Sanu caught only 26 passes for 207 yards. He was hobbled by a serious ankle injury that required offseason surgery, but he didn’t get back in the groove with a clean bill of health this August.

As it stands, Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd and Gunner Olszewski look like locks at wide receiver, with Jakobi Meyers and Devin Ross battling for the last spot. On a conference call Wednesday morning, Belichick explained the challenges of evaluating wide receivers in camp.

“Competition at that position has been good,” Belichick said. “As always, that’s the type of position where you can really see an individual highlight play or a play that may not be as good — a dropped ball or a spectacular catch — and those plays are a lot more visible and really easily identifiable relative to an interior line play or that type of thing.”

“Now, again, with that position, it’s important to develop consistency,” Belichick continued. “There’s a lot of time receivers are open, but the ball is thrown to the other side of the field or they’re covered, and so that’s all part of it, too. It’s not just those highlight plays that everybody sees but really the evaluation of the player’s consistency to win his route or block the player that he’s supposed to block in the running game as part of the run force and so forth.

“I think there are a lot of things at that position that are subtle to the naked eye, and it really comes down to, again, that play-after-play consistency. The highlight plays stand out – and they’re important, too, one way or the other – but I would say the consistency overall is also something that you can’t lose sight of.”