The Patriots have announced the release of cornerback Leigh Bodden. Bodden has spent three seasons with the Patriots after joining as a free agent. Bodden had a stellar 2009 season which earned a long term contract to solidify the Patriots' weak secondary. He missed the 2010 season with an injury and has been hampered by additional injuries all season.
Bodden was the third cornerback on the depth chart behind Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington. It seems as if Bodden was unhappy with his decreased role on defense as rookie Ras-I Dowling earned the starting spot over Bodden at the beginning of the season and, once Dowling was injured, Arrington assumed the starting role. Bodden's agent stated, "He's enjoyed this time in New England, but after meeting with coach Belichick this morning, both parties agreed it was time to move on." If this is true, it could mean the end of Bodden in New England. Usually, when a player still has their possessions in their locker, it could signify a potential return (a la Dan Gronkowski). However, if Bodden is truly ready to move on, this could be a big move for the Patriots defense.
Dowling has continued to sit out from practice due to his hip injury, which means that Antwaun Molden will have to step up as the third cornerback on the field. Once Dowling recovers, the Patriots will have a solid young trio in McCourty, Arrington, and Dowling, but he seems to be struggling to make it back on the field.
Bodden will go down as a great player in 2009, but another one of Belichick's disappointing acquisitions. It seems that since 2005, for every Junior Seau, Sammy Morris, Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Rob Ninkovich, and Dan Connolly, the Patriots have had a David Terrell, Duane Starks, Johnathan Sullivan, Reche Caldwell, Adalius Thomas, 2008 secondary members (Lewis Sanders, Fernando Bryant, Jason Webster, Tank Williams), Fred Taylor, Shawn Springs, Joey Galloway, Greg Lewis, Alex Smith, Derrick Burgess, and Torry Holt. Even successes like Alge Crumpler and Tully Banta-Cain last only a short while. While Belichick and the Patriots have done well trading picks for players and resigning successful players the team drafted, they have had extremely limited success in finding long term contributors through free agency.
The key to the Patriots success in the early part of the decade was their ability to find veteran players who could contribute for numerous seasons and who could help build a strong roster. Belichick needs to find that magic touch because the recent quality acquisitions have been lacking as of late. Belichick's strength remains his ability to find talent through the draft and with undrafted free agents, as well as determining when to cut loose with a player on the roster. However, his overall skill as a veteran talent evaluator and cultivator must improve.
Hopefully Ras-I Dowling can return to the field and hopefully the release of Leigh Bodden won't come back to haunt the Patriots this Halloween.