New England Patriots Should Not Have Released Alfonzo Dennard

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NFL media insider Ian Rapoport was the first to break the news that the New England Patriots will release cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

Here’s the thing about Dennard: he’s a very talented player, but his work ethic has been questioned at times by teammates. Evidently, the Patriots wanted to move on and revise the depth chart at cornerback without the former Cornhusker.

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With Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, and Alfonzo Dennard all gone, the Patriots are pretty much starting fresh at cornerback. Logan Ryan and Malcolm Butler are the only remaining cover men from the Super XLIX team. That’s a problem.

It’s all well and good that the Patriots want to go a new direction, but they didn’t have to entirely dismantle the cornerback corps. Dennard is slightly better on the perimeter than Ryan—he should have at least been given an opportunity to prove himself in camp.

Before the 2012 draft, Dennard was a sure-fire first or second rounder. And then he ran into some legal trouble, dropped to the seventh round, and signed with the Patriots. In his rookie year, Dennard played with a chip on his shoulder, intercepting three passes (including a pick six) and earned the starting role opposite Aqib Talib.

In the 2013 playoffs, Dennard made an outstanding interception of Andrew Luck in the first series, nearly returning it for a touchdown. The 5-foot-10 corner’s run of substantial playing time with the Patriots essentially ended in the 2014 opener, when he made an athletic pick against the Miami Dolphins.

It was not necessary for the Patriots to cut Dennard so prematurely; he deserved a shot for his job in training camp.

Granted, Dennard faced an uphill battle to make the team in what was a nine-man cornerback competition before this morning’s news. But it was not necessary for the Pats to cut him so prematurely.

At the very least, the veteran would have given free agent additions Bradley Fletcher, Chimdi Chekwa and Brice McClain and draft pick Darryl Roberts stiff competition in the dog days of summer.

With so much personnel turnover this offseason, the release of Dennard could have been avoided. This isn’t to say that Dennard would have made significant contributions to the Patriots’ secondary in 2015, but the timing of his release is very unfortunate.