Patriots release LB Adalius Thomas

BOSTON — The New England Patriots on Monday released former Pro Bowl linebacker Adalius Thomas, who joined the team as a high-profile free agent in 2007, but fell into disfavor with coach Bill Belichick last season.

The decision, announced by the team on Monday, leaves Thomas, 32, free to sign with any other NFL team. His agent, Bus Cook, did not immediately return a phone message.

Thomas’ release had been rumored for weeks, and once the Patriots made it official, speculation immediately began that he could be headed for a reunion with Rex Ryan and Bart Scott on the New York Jets. Thomas played seven seasons with Ryan and Scott on the Baltimore Ravens before bolting to the Patriots after signing a five-year, $35-million deal in 2007.

Thomas had 14½ sacks in his three seasons in New England. But his lowest total came in 2009, when he had just three sacks.

He was a healthy scratch for the Patriots in two games last season, and was one of four players sent home by Belichick after arriving late for practice during a snowstorm in December.

While the three other players, wide receiver Randy Moss, defensive lineman Derrick Burgess and linebacker Gary Guyton largely remained quiet about the snowstorm incident, Thomas spoke out strongly the following day, saying he was “dumbfounded” and “can’t figure out what Bill thinks or knows.”

Thomas said he showed up nine minutes late for an 8 a.m. team meeting and had called ahead to say he was going to be late.

After being inactive in a 59-0 win over the Tennessee Titans in October, Thomas, asked by reporters why he was benched, said: “Ask Bill. He has all the answers.”

Thomas said after the season he would not be surprised if he was released by the Patriots.

In his first season with the team, Thomas had 6½ sacks along with 78 tackles. He also had two sacks in the 17-14 Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants, which spoiled the Patriots’ bid for a perfect season.

The Patriots drafted linebacker Brandon Spikes in the second round last week and also selected his Florida teammate, Jermaine Cunningham, who played defensive end in college but may be converted to linebacker in the pros.

Thomas’ departure leaves New England thin at outside linebacker, with Tully Banta-Cain the top returning veteran.

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