The New England Patriots decided to not pick-up the options of starting cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. They decided to cut the Aqib Talib-less 2012-13 starting cornerbacks of Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington. These were not back-of-the-roster players. These were starting caliber players.
Bill Belichick and the Patriots are working through a complete overhaul of their defensive strategy and make-up, and it's an absolute surprise that they've decided to part with Arrington. By all accounts, the staff liked him and he was always willing to do whatever the coaches asked of him. Now, Logan Ryan is the default top dog, and he experienced the traditional Patriots sophomore secondary slump.
The Patriots ignored the cornerback position until the seventh round, and they even added Jordan Richards to the already-populous safety group. So who is left at cornerback?
Outside: Logan Ryan, Bradley Fletcher, Malcolm Butler, Justin Green, Chimdi Chekwa, Daxton Swanson, Darryl Roberts, Jimmy Jean, Eric Patterson
Slot: Robert McClain, Jordan Richards
Ryan, Fletcher, and Butler are likely roster locks, while Green has played some time in the Patriots secondary during the 2013 season. Chekwa is primarily a special teams player, while Swanson flashed talent during off-season camps. Roberts is a sleeper to make the team and have an impact as he was one of Pro Football Focus's sleepers (and they considered him potentially worthy of a 2nd round pick). Jean and Patterson will fight to make a special teams impact.
In the slot, McClain has shown plenty of ability, while Richards (the rookie safety) is my sleeper to play heavy snaps in this role.
With the current state of the cornerbacks, moving Devin McCourty back to the outside is a definite possibility, but the 2011 secondary showed how transformational an able-safety can be for a weak roster. It would be very surprising if the names on the current depth chart are the same as those on the Day 1 roster, so look for Bill Belichick to hit the phone lines to try and make a trade.
This secondary is night-and-day with last season's. Let's hope it doesn't come back to bite the Patriots.