belichick1.jpg
Getty Images

Bill Belichick has done it again. As teams across the NFL trim their rosters from 80 players down to 53, the Patriots head coach provided the stunning move of the day as New England elected to release quarterback Cam Newton. This comes as many expected Newton to be the team's starter to begin the 2021 regular season, while first-round rookie Mac Jones continues to develop behind him. Well, it appears Jones didn't need to marinate any longer and will be the team's starter out of the gate this year as Newton now looks for a new team. 

Naturally, this move left the entire NFL shocked, which is something Belichick has grown accustomed to over the course of his tenure as the head coach of the Patriots. Below, we're ranking the top-five most surprising roster moves (cuts/trades) he's made since coming to Foxborough, which does include this latest jaw-dropper revolving around Newton. 

5. Trading Richard Seymour in 2009

Seymour is one of the greatest Patriots of all time and his departure was one of the more surprising of Belichick's tenure in Foxborough. Seymour had been a key piece to three Super Bowl-winning defenses for New England and was a five-time All-Pro at the time he was traded to the Oakland Raiders. The deal came just about a week prior to the start of the regular season in 2009, which left the NFL stunned. Not only was Seymour a generational defensive lineman for the Patriots, but also a fan favorite. 

He was approaching a big payday and Belichick apparently didn't want to be the one giving him a new contract, which is what ultimately led to the trade. In return, the Patriots received a first-round pick that they used to select left tackle Nate Solder, so New England did make out well in the deal.  

4. Trading Jamie Collins in 2016

What makes this move a bit different than the others on this list is that it came in-season. Belichick stunned the NFL by shipping Collins to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a 2017 third-round pick after Week 8. At the time, the Patriots were 7-1 to begin the season and Collins was looked at as a core piece to their defense. After all, he proved to be a key figure in the team's win over the Seahawks back in Super Bowl XLIX. That said, there were reports that the Patriots weren't pleased with Collins' freelancing on defense, which could partially be why he was shipped out of town. 

Of course, the trade didn't hurt the Patriots too much as they were still able to win Super Bowl LI that year and Collins eventually found his way back to the Patriots, re-signing with the team for the 2019 season.

3. Cutting Cam Newton in 2021

Maybe this is a little too high and I'm simply a prisoner of the moment, but Newton's release is jarring nonetheless. Belichick consistently pointed to Newton as the team's starter even with the arrival of Mac Jones at the draft. He then went on to give Newton the bulk of first-team reps throughout the summer and he started every preseason contest for New England. That all seemed to suggest that he was well on his way towards being named the Week 1 starter while Jones continued to develop and serve as the backup. Yes, Newton's "misunderstanding" of the COVID protocols that held him out of practice last week likely opened the door for Jones to see increased work, but it still appeared like he had a firm hold for the Week 1 job. 

That said, this does fall in line with Belichick's mantra of doing what's best for the football team. Clearly, Jones, in Belichick's assessment, gives the Patriots the best chance to win, which is why this jaw-dropping release was executed. 

2. Trading Logan Mankins in 2014

Mankins is one of the greatest offensive linemen to come through Foxborough and was one of the main faces of this 20-year dynasty under Belichick, which is why his departure in 2014 was all the more surprising. Weeks before the opener, the head coach decided to trade Mankins to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a 2015 fourth-round pick and tight end Tim Wright. This divorce came as Mankins was searching for a new contract, which the team ultimately didn't want to give him. 

Tom Brady -- who was teammates with Mankins dating back to 2005 -- was reportedly "very upset" about the trade and seemed to give a nod at his frustration during a radio interview on WEEI at the time saying: "I haven't really spoken to anybody about it. I have my own personal feelings that obviously are very personal to me. Whatever those are, I just want our team to be the best it can be for this year. I love Logan, Logan was a great friend of mine. Nobody stood for Patriot football more than him. But he's moved on. I hope he's happy. We'll keep in touch."

Mankins went on to play two more seasons in the NFL before announcing his retirement. Meanwhile, Tim Wright didn't make much of an impact on the Patriots roster, but the fourth-round pick the Patriots received did turn into defensive end Trey Flowers

What does Cam Newton's release and Mac Jones' promotion mean for the rest of the Patriots' players? Download the CBS Sports app to find out! Plus, get insight from our resident Patriots insider, Tyler Sullivan. If you already have the CBS Sports app, make sure to pick the Patriots as your favorite team for up-to-the-minute news.

1. Releasing Lawyer Milloy in 2003

This was really the first time Belichick had us blindsided. Milloy was drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft and had been a key fixture within New England's defense over his tenure. He was a four-time Pro Bowler, first-team All-Pro in 1999, and helped the team win its first Super Bowl in 2001 (a team he was co-captain of). Just days before the 2003 season began, however, Belichick decided to cut Milloy after the two sides were unable to come to terms on a restructured contract. This move was a complete stunner at the time and one that Brady was also said to be not too fond of as he and Milloy were close friends. 

In the aftermath of Milloy's release, he signed on with the Buffalo Bills, who would go on to face Belichick and the Patriots in Week 1 and blow them out, 31-0. That season, Milloy played all 16 games for Buffalo and totaled 105 tackles to go along with a career-high nine pass breakups. Meanwhile, the Patriots went on to win Super Bowl XXXVIII.