In late March the New England Patriots and receiver Chad Ochocinco restructured his contract lowering his base salary from $3 million to $1 million in order to help the Patriots in free agency. After a very subpar season in 2011, this was seen as the former pro bowler showing his commitment to the organization. However, with the signing of Jabar Gaffney, maybe the commitment is one sided.
Playing in Cincinnati between 2001 and 2010, Chad Ochocinco (formerly Johnson) became one of the elite receivers in the NFL known for acrobatic plays and post-touchdown celebrations. After the departure of pro bowl receiver Randy Moss who helped the Patriots to the 2007 AFC championship, Ochocinco was brought in to replace the star.
Ochocinco’s first season in New England can only be described as a disappointment. In 15 regular season games he only caught 15 passes for 276 yards and one touchdown. After being virtually nonexistent in the first playoff game against the Denver Broncos, Ochocinco missed the AFC championship game against the Baltimore Ravens as he flew home following the death of his father.
It was clear Ochocinco was not going to be the player the Patriots need to win a Super Bowl so when the 2012 free agency period started, they began to look elsewhere. The first signing was pro bowl receiver Brandon Lloyd who had played under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Denver. That was followed by the signing of Donte’ Stallworth and Wednesday’s signing of Jabar Gaffney.
Ochocinco has continued to slip down the depth chart for the Patriots and now looks to be the sixth receiver for the team behind Wes Welker, Lloyd, Gaffney, Deion Branch, and Stallworth. So where do the Patriots go from here? They already have two pro bowl tight ends who were primary receivers in 2011 so six receivers seems to be too many.
It wouldn’t be a tremendous surprise to see Ochocinco depart. After last season’s dismal performance many believed he would be gone anyway. Another option would be a battle during training camp and through the preseason. The only new receiver on the Patriots who is guaranteed a role is Brandon Lloyd. Gaffney and Stallworth are both 31-years old and Ochocinco is 34 so it’s not as if any of the three are a part of any future plans for the organization.
The Patriots have two young running backs, a weak defense, and now too many wide receivers on their roster. The signing of Gaffney means it’s likely that one of the veterans will have to depart. If that decision will be decided on recent performance, Ochocinco may not be around much longer.