Patriots Release Leonard Johnson, Increasing Need For Cornerback Help

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The New England Patriots began making veteran cuts Wednesday, when they released cornerback Leonard Johnson.

The Patriots appeared to find a late-season steal when they signed cornerback Leonard Johnson in December. Johnson shined on short notice in his first game, but his success was short-lived. Johnson eventually was passed on the cornerback depth chart when rookie Justin Coleman fully recovered from injuries.

After releasing Johnson, the Patriots are left with just three cornerbacks on their roster: starters Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan and 2015 draft pick Darryl Roberts, who spent his rookie season on injured reserve. Coleman also is almost certain to be back as an exclusive-rights free agent.

The Patriots likely will add depth at the position through free agency or the draft. They could bring back veteran Tarell Brown, who was placed on injured reserve early in the 2015 season with a foot injury.

Sean Smith, Prince Amukamara and Casey Hayward are among the top free-agent cornerbacks. Carolina Panthers free-agent cornerback Josh Norman likely will be franchise tagged.

Thumbnail photo via Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Dec 13, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Leonard Johnson (34) and cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) celebrate after a defensive play during the second half against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Texans 27-6. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

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