The Patriots released WR Chad Ochocinco on Thursday, the team announced.
Ochocinco was not at the team’s OTA practice on Thursday, his first absence among the sessions open to the media. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Pats tried unsuccessfully to trade Ochocinco before deciding to release him.
Acquired from the Bengals last July for a fifth-round pick, Ochocinco was a nonfactor during his year in New England. In 15 games and three starts, he had 15 catches for 276 yards and one touchdown, which was the least productive season of his career. He took a pay cut in the spring.
Ochocinco had one catch in the playoffs — a 21-yard reception in the Super Bowl — and he did not play in the AFC championship win over the Ravens.
Ochocinco, 34, spent the first 10 seasons of his career with the Bengals, which included six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons from 2002-07. He has 67 career touchdown catches. Ochocinco is now an unrestricted free agent.
The way we see it
He wasn’t a distraction, or a problem in the locker room — from all indications, Ochocinco simply could never get acclimated to the Patriots’ complex offense. Despite it being his “dream” to play for Bill Belichick and with Tom Brady, Ochocinco was rarely on the same page with Brady.
The Patriots are loaded at wide receiver and still have work to do before the season starts in terms of trimming the numbers at the position. It’s not a surprise that Ochocinco will not be a Patriot next season, though it is a bit surprising that his release happened this early. The Patriots didn’t lose much for him — a fifth-round pick, and the fact that Ochocinco didn’t contribute once clearly didn’t negatively affect the Patriots.
Where Ochocinco’s NFL career goes from here remains to be seen. Optimists will note that he caught 67 passes just two seasons ago for Cincinnati and was generally still regarded as a receiver to be respected. However, his glaring lack of production in New England — a club featuring one of the NFL’s elite passers in Tom Brady — may suggest that Ochocinco will have to vie for just a complementary role at his next stop.
It will be interesting to see the interest level Ochocinco generates; on balance, he has had a strong NFL career, but he is closer to the end than the beginning. Known for his outsized personality in Cincinnati, Ochocinco toned it down in New England, which can't hurt him if he tries to sign on elsewhere. Teams interested in Ochocinco will need to weigh what he has left — and why it didn't work out in New England.