The New England Patriots decided to pull a fast one on us by releasing cornerback Ras-I Dowling yesterday, and the cut came a day after the mandatory cut down to 75-men. The Patriots were quite active following the final release to 75 before the deadline (that was UDFA defensive tackle Anthony Rashad White), as they cut offensive lineman Brice Schwab in order to add Gilbert Pena from waivers, and then they decided to cut Dowling.
Nobody should be surprised by the release of Ras-I Dowling, reported by Adam Schefter, but it did come at a sudden time prior to the fourth preseason game. Even so, Dowling’s status on the roster was never a question of productivity, but rather a question of health; playing in another preseason game wouldn’t significantly sway the Patriots either way.
The 33rd pick in the 2011 draft, Dowling was expected to be something for the Patriots at corner and fill a need there, but he was only able to play in nine games in two seasons. He has also been dealing with an injury this August, and that likely spelled his time here in Foxboro. I wanted the Patriots to give Dowling another season and a third year to be healthy and productive, but the Patriots decided to pull the plug.
I wonder how severe Dowling’s injury is, and I’m sure the New England Patriots believed that it just wasn’t worth it at this time. They aren’t alone, as a few Pats fans have told me that they are sick of Dowling’s inability to stay healthy and have always wanted him to be cut. Dowling is one of those big, long corners, though, that has a lot of value in this league, and it’s never been a question of talent for Ras-I Dowling. However, health has been a massive question for Dowling even in college, and he just hasn’t been healthy enough to showcase his ability on the field.
Cutting Dowling definitely hurts the Patriots at corner depth-wise, because the fourth-best corner on the roster is now Logan Ryan. If Alfonzo Dennard is suspended, then the Patriots could be forced to play somebody best-suited in the slot on the outside (Kyle Arrington and Ryan both project as better slot corners). Ryan already looks like a quality dime corner, but I don’t know how much I trust a cornerback trio of Arrington, Dennard, and Aqib Talib.
We do need to consider one more thing in the aftermath of Dowling’s release, and that is it’s endorsement of the other players on the roster. In the same way that releasing Donald Jones was a sign of confidence in the rookie receivers on the roster (one that seems to have been fulfilled), I wonder if the release of Ras-I Dowling signals that the Patriots like what they see in the other corners. We know what we have in Marquice Cole, but I wonder if the Patriots are high on Stephon Morris (he looks like the kind of corner Bill Belichick likes with his ball skills and run defense, and they did re-sign him a day before 75-man cuts) and Justin Green, who is a UDFA out of Illinois and made it over Rutgers UDFA Brandon Jones on cut day.
Now, where will Ras-IR land next? My money is on the Jacksonville Jaguars.