AFC East: Patriots release Ochocinco

The first workout is booked for free-agent receiver Chad Ochocinco. According to Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports, the former New England Patriot will work out with the Miami Dolphins next week.

The AFC East blog brought up the topic of Ochocinco being a possible target for Miami last week. Here are some additional thoughts on the reported workout:
  • I think the workout is a solid idea. I've been saying that talent and depth at wide receiver have been major issues for the Dolphins since they traded Brandon Marshall this offseason. The Dolphins haven’t found anyone to replace Marshall’s production (81 catches, 1,214 yards in 2011) and surprisingly skipped over receiver after receiver in the draft. There is no harm in a workout. Considering Miami’s need, the Dolphins rightfully should be one of the first teams to see what Ochocinco has in the tank.
  • On the flip side, you wonder if this reported interest in Ochocinco sends mixed messages from the organization. All we've heard from new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland is that you don’t need big-name receivers in a West Coast offense and they are fine with the group they have. Going after Ochocinco seems to contradict both. Sure, Ochocinco is not the star receiver he was a few years ago, but he is a big name, and he carries star power in the locker room. The Dolphins seemed to be going against that when they traded Marshall. In fact, if they wanted to keep a high-maintenance receiver, at least Marshall is still a productive Pro Bowler. Looking to replace Marshall with Ochocinco would seem like a weird exchange in terms of both talent and message.
  • Finally, I have questions of whether Ochocinco could fit into a West Coast offense. The scheme requires timing, precision passing and crisp routes. Ochocinco has never been a disciplined receiver. That is what got him cut by the Patriots after one season. Ochocinco is at his best when he’s allowed to freelance and use his athleticism, which was often the case with the Cincinnati Bengals. Freelancing in the West Coast offense doesn’t work and often leads to turnovers, because quarterbacks are taught to throw to spots and receivers are expected to be there. Overall, I like the idea of Miami working out Ochocinco because there is certainly a need there. But I think other teams are a better fit.
The New England Patriots cut six-time Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco Thursday. Along with Anthony Gonzalez, Ochocinco was the second receiver cut before training camp who had a shot to make the team.

This reshuffles a crowded field of receivers for the reigning AFC champs. Let's take a look at the updated roster at the position:

Locks: Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney

Skinny: Welker and Lloyd are the two starters and guaranteed locks to make the team. Gaffney was an underrated free-agent signing who should help the Patriots. He is one of quarterback Tom Brady's favorite receivers, and that carries a lot of weight in New England.

Solid footing: Deion Branch, Matthew Slater

Skinny: Branch is a veteran who knows the system well and continues to produce. A starter in 2011, Branch is a good receiver to have around for depth and knowledge. Slater is New England's best special-teams player and a captain. Slater might not help much on offense, but he's one of the NFL's best in the third phase of the game. That's enough for him to stick.

Work to do: Julian Edelman, Donte' Stallworth, Jeremy Ebert

Skinny: The Patriots are probably going to keep six or seven receivers on their 53-man roster. The recent release of Ochocinco and Gonzalez helps relieve some of the pressure. But these are the three receivers fighting for the final one or two roster spots. The easy prediction is Edelman and Stallworth if New England keeps seven receivers; Ebert is a seventh-round pick and a long shot. If the Patriots choose only six, Edelman might have an advantage with his versatility.
The New England Patriots have so much depth at receiver that they could afford to release a six-time Pro Bowler. On Thursday, the reigning AFC champions cut bait with receiver Chad Ochocinco.

But the Patriots are the exception in the AFC East. Receiver is a big position of need throughout the division, and every team still could use an upgrade.

Could Ochocinco still land in the AFC East? Let's take a look at how he would fit with the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets.


Why Ocho would fit: The Bills need a proven No. 2 receiver, and that's a role I think Ochocinco could handle. He is no longer a No. 1 receiver, and Steve Johnson has that job in Buffalo. But Ochocinco was never a part-time player who could come off the bench and produce. That was proved in New England. Buffalo has a wide-open offense that needs as many talented receivers as possible. Ochocinco isn't as bad as his stats showed last year. He just never fully grasped the precision system with the Patriots. Ochocinco could help the Bills' depth.

Why Ocho wouldn't fit: The Bills are focused, have good chemistry and are on a mission to make the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. Bringing in the circus that comes with Ochocinco is risky. Buffalo took a chance with embattled receiver Terrell Owens a few years ago and it didn't pan out as expected. This would be a similar acquisition. Besides, Steve Johnson already has maturity issues with his touchdown celebrations and Ochocinco is probably the worst influence you will find in that regard.

Interest scale (1 to 10, 10 being the highest): 5


Why Ocho would fit: Ochocinco makes his offseason home in Miami, which makes it a natural fit. The Dolphins also are desperate for talent at receiver. A case can be made that Ochocinco, even at this stage of his career, is better than any receiver Miami has on its roster. Ochocinco also would be a cheap alternative, and that's important considering Miami is fairly tight against the cap. Miami is on HBO's "Hard Knocks" this summer and Ochocinco's personality would certainly add to the show.

Why Ocho wouldn't fit: The Dolphins got rid of Brandon Marshall because the new coaching staff wanted to clean out the locker room of players with character issues. Ochocinco is more fun-loving than a trouble-maker, but rookie coach Joe Philbin has enough on his plate and doesn't need the extra things Ochocinco brings to the table. Besides, trading Marshall but adding Ochocinco would seem a little contradictory and certainly not equal in terms of a talent swap. Marshall caught 81 passes for 1,214 yards last year and was the Pro Bowl MVP. Going after Ochocinco to replace Marshall would open the Dolphins up for criticism and questions about where Miami's program is headed.

Interest scale: 5


Why Ocho would fit: The Jets had some interest in Ochocinco in recent years but the Patriots got him first. Even Jets Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis publicly pushed for Ochocinco to come to New York. It's years later and the Jets could still use another productive receiver. Ochocinco isn't the player he used to be, but he could take the pressure off No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes and buy time for rookie second-round pick Stephen Hill. The Jets are used to the extra media attention. They acquired Tim Tebow this offseason, and bringing in Ochocinco would seem mild in comparison.

Why Ocho wouldn't fit: As I mentioned, the Jets would add more to the circus atmosphere. The Jets have enough pressure as it is to bounce back from a disappointing 8-8 season in 2011. Ochocinco also is not good at run blocking, which is an important part of New York's offense. The Jets will "ground and pound" teams a lot this year, and Ochocinco is not one to mix it up with defensive backs. Still, I see more good than bad for Ochocinco in New York. If I had to pick one AFC East team that's best for Ochocinco, it would be the Jets.

Interest scale: 7
Anyone who watched former Pro Bowl receiver Chad Ochocinco over the past year with the New England Patriots saw this coming. Ochocinco was released by the Patriots, the team announced Thursday afternoon.

While people may try to point the finger or make excuses why the Ochocinco experiment didn't work, the truth is both parties were at fault. This was simply a case of a square peg trying to squeeze into a round hole, and everybody knew it. It didn't fit last year, and New England realized during offseason workouts that nothing would change.

[+] EnlargeChad Ochocinco
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesChad Ochocinco never meshed with the Patriots, catching just 15 passes last season.
New England was aware of the player and personality it was getting. Off the field, Ochocinco is too colorful for the Patriots, although he worked hard to keep his mouth shut last year and did a good job. On the field, Ochocinco was a career freelancer and a receiver who wasn't disciplined enough for New England's precision passing game. The latter is what eventually sealed his fate.

The Patriots gave Ochocinco a year to see if he could be a more disciplined receiver. The coaches stayed on him during the regular season and playoff run but he never reached a certain comfort level. Realizing things may not work out, New England restructured Ochocinco's salary in the offseason and signed a bevy of new receivers, including deep threat Brandon Lloyd. After working with Ochocinco more this spring, things were not getting better and New England cut bait.

Two of New England's biggest and riskiest acquisitions last year were Ochocinco and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Both were monumental busts and were off the team in less than a year.

Ochocinco is not elite at this stage of his career, but he can still help a team. Perhaps he will land with a club that will better allow "Ocho to be Ocho" on and off the field.

That place certainly was not New England.

Sources: Pats to cut Chad Ochocinco

June, 7, 2012

After spending Thursday trying to trade wide receiver Chad Ochocinco, the New England Patriots decided to release him, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

The Patriots pushed trade conversations with other teams up to near the end of the day's transaction deadline at 4 p.m. But despite conversations with other teams, there was not enough interest to make a deal.