Ocho cuts his cost, will that help him avoid cut?

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Ocho cuts his cost, will that help him avoid cut?

PALM BEACH - Chad Ochocinco is a 34-year-old wide receiver coming off a 15-catch season.

His football mortality looms and his grip on celebrity relevance is slipping.

On Sunday, his agent Drew Rosenhaus confirmed that the once-brilliant player agreed to drop his contracted salary for 2012 from 3 million to 1 million. He realizes that he needs the Patriots more than they need him and - if he asked for his release - he may not find another taker.

Even a pay cut may not be enough to ensure Ochocinco a second season in New England. The Patriots have collected wide receivers since free agency began - Brandon Lloyd, Donte Stallworth, Anthony Gonzalez.

New England already has slot receiver Wes Welker and receiverdefensive backpunt returner Julian Edelman locked up. And they recently re-signed Deion Branch to a one-year deal.

It will be an open competition between Stallworth, Ochocinco and Gonzalez - and whoever else the Patriots bring in between now and training camp - for the final wideout roster spots.

Does anybody want to bet on Ocho winning that spot by knockout? Based on 2011, it doesn't seem likely.

With an entire season and a compressed training camp under his belt, Ochocinco was never able to gain the trust of Tom Brady or the Patriots' coaching staff.

New England tried to make it work. But the signs were bad almost from the start. A case of the drops early in training camp. Frustration between Tom Brady and Ocho apparent during open practices. Excuses from Ocho that he wasn't up to speed. A key drop during a game in Buffalo. A lack of production even when Brady tried to force feed him against the Giants (5 targets, 0 catches) near midseason. He was targeted with just 11 throws over the final eight regular-season games.

He was less productive as a wideout than even washout Brandon Tate.

Rosenhaus put a positive spin on it Sunday at the NFL Owners Meetings at The Breakers Hotel.

"(Ochocinco) wanted to come back for all the reasons he was excited about being a part of the team last year - great coach, great quarterback," said Rosenhaus. "He's very confident that - with another offseason - he can contribute a lot more. I think the key for Chad is that he wanted to come back, wants to have a great offseason, wants to do everything he can to study and learn it and have a great year. He obviously enjoyed winning but there's one more game left for him."

Rosenhaus was referring to the Super Bowl. Ocho had one catch for the Patriots in that game back in February.

He has been the definition of a team player during his time in New England. He's worked hard and said all the right things, even as he fell into extreme disuse. He was humbled by the fact he was left at the station while the Patriots' offense rumbled on without him, but he never acted out.

It's not a leap to believe that some of his good soldier mentality is borne from his wanting to keep his all-important brand intact. As an entertainer, Ocho had a great year. Paroled from NFL Siberia in Cincinnati where he had to act outrageously to attract attention, Ocho didn't want for being an object of intrigue even when he did nothing on the field.

Even if he's making less money and doing less on the football field than he ever has, being a part of the Patriots has been a good business move for him.

But it hasn't been a good business move for the Patriots. New England gave him a 4.75 million signing bonus in 2011 and a 1 million salary.

The team is already 5.75 million deep with him and - if he's on the opening day roster in 2012, they'll be 6.75 million deep.

There was much talk about the fact that the Patriots would "pay" Ocho the same amount if they released him as if he played for them in 2012. That's inaccurate.

His salary cap hit in 2012 if he were released prior to June 1 would have been the 3.17 million that hasn't been charged to the Patriots cap. but that's just bookkeeping. He's already been paid the 4.75 million bonus. The remaining money that would hit the cap is simply the money remaining on the bonus that hasn't been charged to the cap.

And if the Patriots choose to designate him as a post-June 1 cut, that 3.17 million would be trimmed to cap hits of about 1.58 million in 2012 and 2013. Again, just bookkeeping.

Now he's working for just a little more than the veteran minimum. As much as the Patriots laud his attitude, his lack of production can't be offset by the fact he simply tries hard.

The Patriots will ultimately be the Patriots and if Ocho can't perform, they will cut him. The question that hangs though, is whether Ocho can continue to be "not-Ocho," keeping quiet and accepting a tiny role that may be snuffed out at any moment.

It worked in 2011 when he was flush with excuses and an infusion of bonus cash. Can he pull that off again? And can he turn back time and be a productive receiver again?

The answers to both questions will come in the ensuing four months.

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

The pros and cons of Rafael Devers' promotion

BOSTON — Rafael Devers is here and there’s a bundle of reasons to be excited. There’s reason, too, to be skeptical. 

Here is a look at the potential pros and cons, depending on Devers’ success. We’ll start with the good as the 20-year-old top prospect heads to the big leagues for the first time.

PROS

Infusion of energy

In the same way a trade can bring a boost of morale, so too can the promotion of a top prospect. It’s new blood walking through the door, either way. There’s help for a group of hitters — and by extension, pitchers lacking run support — who need to see a lift from the front office. Sox manager John Farrell previously acknowledged the sense of anticipation leading up to the trade deadline. The mood heading into Devers’ first game should be an exciting one.

Production

Virtually anything is better than what the Sox have had offensively at third base. Devers’ minor league hitting has been a spectacle. They wanted to see how he adjusted to Double-A pitching and he did so admirably. He walked into Triple-A and kept raking, with three hits in his final game. The ceiling is very high.

Trade leverage

Theoretically this applies to Devers directly. If the Sox wanted to deal him, he’d be worth more as a big leaguer with some success. But if we believe everything the Sox say, they don’t want to trade him. They’d be crazy to do so. Leverage, then, comes in another form. Those teams that the Sox have talked to about third-base help, or hitting help, in general now get a message from the Sox of “Hey, we don’t need you.” Potentially, any way.

Feet wet for the future

A taste isn’t always a good thing, but it often is. One way or another, the Red Sox have to hope that Devers’ first stint in the big leagues lays the groundwork for the future. Growing pains might be inevitable but in some way, the sooner he can go through them, the better. If he comes off the bench at times, that’ll be a new experience he can have under his belt, although you wouldn’t expect he’ll need that skill too much early in his career.

Prospects saved, or repurposed

It’d still be a stunner if the Sox don’t make a trade at the deadline. It just wouldn’t be the Dombrowski way to stay idle. But Devers’ arrival might allow for a different allocation of resources. Whatever prospects the Sox were willing to put toward a third-base upgrade could go toward another bat, or a reliever or both.

CONS

Uncertainty

This is the biggest concern. Even if Devers rakes for the first week and thereby convinces the Red Sox they don’t need to trade for a third baseman, what does one week really tell them? A month isn’t really enough, either, but it would have been a lot better. (There is always the possibility of a trade in August.) Devers is still missing what the position has been missing all along — a known quantity. Someone with a major league track record, someone who can provide as much certainty as can reasonably be found.

Public about-face

Promoting Devers to the majors for the purposes of evaluation ahead of the non-waiver trade deadline would have been wiser at the start of July. He was raking after two months at Portland. It’s clear the Sox didn’t intend to move Devers with this kind of speed. They’ve adjusted on the fly, which is necessary sometimes, but Dombrowski said on July 14 — the day Devers was moved to Triple-A — that "I don't want to put it on his back that we're counting on him in a pennant race.” Didn’t take long for that to change.

Defense

Devers made four errors in 12 games at Pawtucket and has 16 in 72 games between there and Portland. One scout who has seen Devers doesn’t think he’s ready defensively yet. From there, it’s worth noting the context at this position: how chaotic third base has been for the Sox this season. Basic plays were not made for a time, and that’s how Deven Marrero ended up with a job. A drop off in defense is fine, but repeated errors on routine plays won’t work, particularly at a position where the Sox have already lived those woes.

Development

It’s a natural worry for a 20-year-old kid: if he doesn’t do well, can he handle it mentally? He wouldn’t be in the big leagues if the Sox didn’t think so. At the same time, you run the risk of a slow-down for a player who was chugging right along. Devers is poised to share time for now, which means he may well come off the bench, something he hasn’t had to do.

Loss of leverage

If Devers looks bad for a week — as in, truly overmatched — the Sox aren’t going to have any better position for a trade for an established infielder or bat. If anything, the potential trade partner would gain ground.