LaFell was set to count $3.675 million against the salary cap next season, which is a perfectly affordable number, but the Patriots figure they can upgrade from the veteran receiver. His release frees up $2.675 million in cap space. In addition to cutting LaFell, the Patriots parted ways with tight end Scott Chandler Wednesday as well. He carried a cap hit north of $3 million for next season.
The Carolina Panthers selected LaFell in the third round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He spent four mostly underwhelming seasons in Charlotte before signing a three-year deal worth $9 million with New England. LaFell had a solid 2014 season and appeared to be something of a late bloomer, posting career highs with 74 catches, 953 yards and seven touchdowns.
However, LaFell came crashing back to Earth in 2015. After missing the first six weeks with a foot injury, he never found his form again, putting up just 37 catches for 515 yards in 11 games and failing to score a touchdown. LaFell was eventually written out of the game plan in the playoffs, not getting a single target in the Patriots' AFC Championship loss.
The Patriots have thin receiver depth behind Julian Edelman, so releasing LaFell is a clear sign that he's fallen out of favor. Turning 30 in November, he may receive just middling interest on the free agent market.