The experiment was one with high hopes of success and the expectation of finally providing Tom Brady with the deep threat he's lacked since Randy Moss' departure during the 2010 season.
The pairing was supposed to supply the Patriots with at least 50 receptions, close to 1,000 yards and let's say a half dozen touchdowns. Instead, the six-time Pro Bowler produced a mere 15 catches, 276 yards and a lone touchdown in 15 games with the Patriots. Underwhelming numbers for a receiver with seven 1,000-yard campaigns in his 11-year career.
Rather than meeting the lofty expectation that the team could win the Super Bowl because of Ochocinco's presence, it turned out that they actually made it to the big game despite his lack of productivity. A sad truth, but a truth nonetheless.
Thursday's dismissal, although somewhat controversial given the contradicting reports, was definitely the right call by the Patriots and probably the best case scenario for a receiver who has clearly lost his way.
The move opens up some space on the Patriots roster, as they are already extremely close to the 90 man training camp maximum, and it cuts down on the competition at an already stacked wide receiver position.
The return of Brady favorites, Jabar Gaffney and Donte' Stallworth definitely made things a little bit tighter on the receiver depth chart, but Ochocinco's continued inability to understand the Patriots' offensive system appears to have been the final straw.
During the team's first week of OTAs, Ocho could be seen asking fellow wideout Deion Branch for help with routes during one practice. A clear sign that he still hadn't fully absorbed the playbook. A little later in the same practice Ocho could be seen running laps around the Patriots practice field, after the 34-year-old lined up offsides during a drill — the only Patriot to do so on the day.
Last year was obviously a lost season for Ochocinco, but the hope entering this summer was that the ultra talented receiver would fully immerse himself into the playbook and the offensive system in New England and finally find the success expected upon his arrival. The early blunders were indication enough that Ocho's time wearing the silver and blue had come and passed and that it was time to start anew elsewhere.
The early release at least gives him a chance to hook on with another team before training camp starts. Seeing how difficult it was for veterans like Randy Moss and Darren Sharper to even get workouts before last season, the swift decision at least gives him time to peruse around and prove to teams that he can still be a valuable asset.
Miami could be an option, the Raiders are always looking for talent, and who knows, maybe the Jets will even give Ocho a run alongside Santonio Holmes — although that relationship is beginning to look almost irreparable. There should be opportunities out there and the suitors will eventually come calling — whether it's by need or by choice.
The Patriots, meanwhile, continue to whittle down their receiving core and should be fairly settled in that area given the additions of Gaffney, Stallworth and Brandon Lloyd in the offseason. Wes Welker will continue to be a major factor in Tom Brady's spread passing attack, and Ochocinco will likely be long forgotten before Brady even sets up under center for the first snap in Tennessee on Sept. 9.
It was a relationship with plenty of hype but nothing concrete to show for it in the way of results. The Patriots may look foolish, having forfeited a pair of draft picks — both fifth rounders — for a failed shot with an aging superstar, but Bill Belichick and the team definitely made the right decision in finally cutting off the infected area and purging themselves of any lingering effects.
They say breaking up is hard to do. But in this case both sides are definitely better off heading in a new direction.
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