Reports have emerged that the New England Patriots will be releasing cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.
Dennard was drafted in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft. Prior to the draft Dennard was considered a first- or second-round talent before slipping down draft boards due to legal trouble. He tumbled down the Patriots depth chart in 2014 with the arrival of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner before a hamstring injury landed him on the injured reserve in week 17. In his three year career in New England, Dennard played in 29 games, collecting 5 interceptions and 89 tackles.
While it received some attention before the draft, the Giants' depth chart at cornerback should be of some concern. While Prince Amukamara and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are top-flight corners who can match up with any receiver in the league, and Trumaine McBride is quietly effective, the depth behind them is in question. Two of the Giants back-up corners, Bennett Jackson and Chyckie Brown are attempting to transition to safety, and Chandler Fenner, Jayron Hosley, and Mike Harris were basically emergency options in 2014.
Complicating things further, McBride is 29 and on the last year of his deal with the Giants, as is Prince.
Dennard is a former teammate of Prince Amukamara, at Nebraska and at 5-foot-10, 205 pounds is physically very similar to Trumaine McBride. He is physical, can play press or zone coverage, on the outside or in the slot, and is a willing run defender.
Pro Football Focus listed Dennard as a "Secret Superstar" of the 2014 Divisional Round, notching a +4.0 score with two pass breakups and two interceptions of Andrew Luck.
In the 2014 regular season his play dropped off considerably. In 241 snaps he allowed 15 catches on 22 targets, and gave up a total of 216 yards. His tackling was also an issue, missing a tackle every 3.8 attempts, giving up 90 yards after the catch.
Generally, when Bill Belichick moves on from a player, there is a good reason for it. In this case, poor play, an injury, and significant cap savings ($1million) make the decision fairly easy.
However, given the Giants' depth chart behind their three starters: Should they consider Dennard and hope his decline in play was due to the nagging hamstring injury that ultimately ended his season, and he is really the player who flashed his rookie season and in the 2014 playoffs?