The verdict is in. And things are looking up.
We're all very aware of the Alfonzo Dennard saga by now; it has been something of a black mark on what has been a very busy offseason for the New England Patriots. As we all know, Dennard was accused of assaulting an officer on April 21st, 2012, which (along with a poor Senior Bowl performance and an in-game ejection for fighting during his last game at Nebraska) caused his draft stock to plummet from a second round projection to a seventh. The Patriots took a flier on him, hoping that his potential legal troubles would not interfere with his career.
When Dennard was found guilty of assault earlier this year, there were a lot of questions as to what his future would hold. The penalty for assaulting an officer is up to 5 years in prison, which meant that the Patrots could soon be without their starting corner. Dennard had a very solid rookie season and was poised to start the 2013 year starting alongside Aqib Talib at the cornerback slot. Should Dennard miss significant time, New England would have once again found themselves woefully thin at defensive back.
However, with today's sentencing, Patriots Nation can breathe a sigh of relief. Dennard received 24 months probation for each charge and 30 days in jail. He will begin serving his sentence on March 1st, 2014.
This comes as good news for the Patriots, as Dennard will not be missing any significant football time at all. He will be allowed to participate in all offseason workouts, OTAs, and minicamps, and will be able to come into the 2013 season ready to go. Of course, there is still a chance that the NFL will take some sort of action against Dennard, but initial reports claim that a suspension is unlikely.
With this mess behind them, the Patriots can focus their full attention on the draft knowing that they won't have a major hole to fill in the secondary. They may still very well go DB with one of their early picks, but knowing that Dennard isn't likely to miss any significant time definitely makes things a little less urgent.