FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots have informed veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer that they will release him by Saturday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline, a league source confirmed, which means rookie Jarrett Stidham is the top backup to Tom Brady.

The decision was one of the most important for to make Saturday in trimming rosters to 53 players, with Stidham gaining momentum late in the preseason as Hoyer didn’t play in the team’s final two games.

Patriots coach has generally preferred to carry just two quarterbacks on the roster in recent years, which allows him to keep a player at a position that might have a greater chance to contribute on game day, but the club carried three in both 2011 and 2016 after drafting quarterbacks Ryan Mallett (’11) and Jacoby Brissett (’16) in the third round.

Stidham, a fourth-round pick out of Auburn, finished the preseason 61-of-90 for 731 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception. He played 218 snaps in the preseason, which is a high total that gave Belichick, offensive coordinator and the personnel staff an extended evaluation to make a critical decision.

“Jarett is a good kid. He loves football. He’s a hard worker. He makes mistakes every day, like they all do as rookies, and he gets better,” McDanels said on Monday. “He has a great attitude, a great mindset about him. He doesn’t ever get discouraged, which is a great trait to have as a young person.”

McDaniels also had high praise for the 33-year-old Hoyer, calling him “as good a leader as I’ve seen as a backup quarterback.” Hoyer played just 48 snaps.

Thinning the depth behind Brady comes with risk, as Brady is looking to become the first 42-year-old quarterback to start all 16 regular-season games.

Hoyer was cited by Patriots players as a key in helping them prepare for Super Bowl LIII and other games as the scout-team quarterback. Hoyer was also efficient in the 2019 preseason, finishing 18 of 22 for 202 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.

With several teams around the looking to bolster the quarterback position, Hoyer could find an active market. The Denver Broncos are one team interested in bringing in Hoyer, sources tell ’s Dianna Russini. Hoyer also said a few weeks ago that he had a great appreciation for his time with , so if the club would be open to bringing him back as a third option after the initial flurry of roster moves this weekend, it could be something he would consider.

“With the type of career I’ve had, you just worry about the present. And you enjoy it, especially being part of this organization,” he said. “With the ups and downs I went through over the years, to be back here, and be a part of something as special as this, I appreciate it so much more than I think I ever knew I could have the first time I was here (2009-11).”

Adam Caplan of Sirius XM Radio first reported the news.

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