The 'Why?' of Leigh Bodden's release

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The 'Why?' of Leigh Bodden's release

FOXBORO - Just 19 months ago, Leigh Bodden was one of the two most sought-after free agents on the market. After a 2009 season in which he was one of the few bright spots in a shaky and immature Patriots secondary, Bodden was in a position to cash in. It came down to the Texans and Patriots and New England won out, signing Bodden to a four-year, 22 million deal. This season, he was due to make 3.9 million in base salary, a base that was second only to Tom Brady's 5.75 million.
How does a player go so quickly from being so highly-regarded, must-have pieceto castoff? And why would the Patriots just take a flamethrower to the reported 10 million investment in guaranteed money they gave him?Not surprisingly, the answer isn't a simple one. Bodden missed the 2010 season with a shoulder injury and has been battling nagging ailments including groin and thumb injuries this year. In his absence, Devin McCourty emerged as a Pro Bowler in his rookie year and underrated Kyle Arrington proved a solid NFL starter. Meanwhile, the Patriots took Ras-I Dowling in the second round last April and have been stockpiling little-known free agent corners like Phillip Adams and Antwaun Molden. The old saying, "You can't make the club from the tub..." might apply here. Too often, Bodden was injured or his effectiveness was compromised. And other players who played just as well or better for less money emerged. When Bodden was on the field he was nothing like the effective corner he'd been in 2009 when he had five picks. He was really just...there.And his playing time sometimes reflected that with several players cycling through the corner position opposite McCourty.There's also the entire roster to consider. With three players coming back from the PUP list and being eligible for activation this week, the Patriots may need to clear room for Brandon Deaderick, Ron Brace or Kevin Faulk. Certainly, they could have thrown overboard a player they had less invested in, but perhaps the situation with reduced time came to a head.Bodden's agent, Alvin Keels, indicated Bodden was ready to move on from the situation as well."He's enjoyed this time in New England, but after meeting with coach Belichick this morning, both parties agreed it was time to move on," Keels said to ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss. "Leigh still has a strong desire to play football and welcomes his next opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl. Leigh is totally healthy and can contribute right away." Bodden will be placed on waivers. Any team that claims him will be responsible for the rest of his 2011 salary. If he's not claimed, the Patriots are on the hook for it. That's a lot of money to pay a player to NOT play for you. Bodden's teammates were a little stunned by the news which they said they were hearing for the first time from reporters. "Ya, it's football," said wide receiver Deion Branch. "That's what happens in the NFL. Guys get cut in college. Guys get cut in high school. It's the NFL, man. Those coaching decisions, we roll with it. I go out and do my job. And I'm pretty sure everybody else is doing the same thing."

USA TODAY predicts 19-0 season for Patriots

USA TODAY predicts 19-0 season for Patriots

You can add USA TODAY to the Patriots' undefeated season bandwagon.

In its annual projections before NFL teams report to training camps this week, USA TODAY has the Patriots going 16-0 in the regular season, then beating the AFC West's L.A. Chargers and Oakland Raiders in the playoffs before capping a perfect 19-0 season with a Super Bowl 52 victory over Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in Minneapolis.

Here's their Pats' regular-season rundown from USA TODAY NFL writer Nate Davis:

New England Patriots (16-0): Is it bold? Sure. Kinda. But it's not like Tom Brady hasn't gone 16-0 before ... (and, really, wouldn't he and Bill Belichick secretly love to add 19-0 to their otherwise incomparable resumes?). And from the FWIW department, Brady went 14-1 last season and appears to be surrounded by an even better cast now, especially if Rob Gronkowski is, in fact, back to 100%. 

Pats wide receiver Julian Edelman called the 19-0 talk "stupid" last week. Bill Belichick is almost guaranteed to dismiss it if and when he's asked about it this week.