In what cannot be termed much of a surprise, the New England Patriots have reportedly released veteran center Dan Koppen. Last year Koppen played in just one game, breaking his ankle in the first half of the season opener.

Dan Koppen was the last remaining player other than Tom Brady from the 2003 championship team. (FILE:USPresswire)

With the team parting ways with  Koppen that means that there are just three players remaining on the current roster from the Patriots last championship in 2004: Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork, who was a rookie that year. Deion Branch, who was also a member of that squad was also released today. After Brady and Wilfork the players with the longest tenure in Foxboro are now Logan Mankins (since 2005) and Stephen Gostkowski (2006).

2012 would have been Koppen’s tenth year with the Patriots. The Iowa native and Boston College grad turns 33 two weeks from now and Bill Belichick has long felt that it is better to get rid of a player a year too early than a year too late. Koppen seemed to struggle in one on one drills and even though his injury occured early in 2011, I couldn’t help but feel that he was never fully recovered form that broken bone. In this case the benefits gained from all that experience were not enough to trump the speed, strength and long term potential that younger players like Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell and Nick McDonald could offer.

Some have written that Koppen was done in by his lack of versatility; the three players mentioned above can play both guard positions in addition to center. In my opinion I don’t believe that to be the case; even if Koppen was the backup Connolly (or any of the others) could have slid over to play guard if the situation arose where Koppen needed to play. It was just a simple case of the others outperforming him; they were a better choice not just for the future but for this immediate season as well.

If this is the end of the line for Koppen he leaves with an impressive resume: starter for all but one of the 121 regular season games in which he appeared, plus 13 more playoff starts, a pro bowl honor and a pair of Super Bowl rings. While this may have been inevitable it is still rather sad to see one of the last of the old guard depart.

Congratulations on a great career and thanks for all the hard work and memories Dan. Best wishes on whatever comes next for you and your family.

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