What we reported last month was highly likely -- receiver Brandon Lloyd being released so the Patriots didn’t have to pay his $3 million option bonus -- happened Saturday afternoon before the deadline, a league source said.

The Patriots specifically built this protection into the contract because Lloyd had the reputation for being hard to handle in his many previous stops. The Patriots were his sixth team in nine years.

The move will clear $4.9 million off the Patriots’ cap, but there is $2 million in dead money. It could be split over two years if he is designated as a post-June 1 cut.