With Dennard in the mix, Patriots draft board opens up


Alfonzo Dennard’s delayed jail sentence will allow the Patriots to go into the NFL draft with some maneuverability. (Nati Harnik / AP photo)

The Patriots benefit greatly from cornerback Alfonzo Dennard’s delayed jail time.

Convicted of felony assault on a police officer in Nebraska and misdemeanor resisting arrest, Dennard was facing up to 5 years in jail for his crimes. Instead, he’s getting 30 days in jail and 2 years of probation, along with 100 hours of “law-enforcement related” community service.

But the kicker is he doesn’t have to do any jail time in the near future, forced to report to jail March 1, 2014, allowing him to take part in the entire 2013 NFL season. Maybe even the Duck Boat parade if it comes to that.


Coach Bill Belichick, along with Nebraska head football coach Bo Pelini, wrote letters to the judge on Dennard’s behalf.
While Dennard may still be upset that he has to serve any time at all (something at least his attorney is arguing), the Patriots can breathe a sigh of relief. Along with Devin McCourty, Dennard has been one of the team’s few recent draft picks at defensive back that have worked out. The jury is still out on Ras-I Dowling.
But what’s more, Dennard’s stayed sentence means the Patriots don’t have such a glaring hole at cornerback for the 2013 season, allowing for the team to move more comfortably in the draft and in a position of control, rather than one of desperation.
It also means that Belichick’s gamble on Dennard, a seventh round pick in 2012, has paid off. While he had been projected to be selected in the third, fourth, or fifth rounds, he dropped all the way to the seventh because of his arrest just days before the draft — losing a ton of money in the process.
The value added — buzzword alert — to the Patriots roster has been tremendous. Dennard (35 tackles, 3 interceptions, 1 forced fumble) has been a scrappy corner who has shown the toughness needed to handle the right corner spot well. Along with Aqib Talib (re-signed at 1-year, $4.85 million) and Kyle Arrington (re-signed at 4 years, $16 million), the Patriots are set at the position for the upcoming season, which now allows for the team to plan ahead.
Say, in 2014, it has been decided that Talib isn’t going to work out. A middling draft pick this year, at Nos. 59 or 91, can certainly be used on someone for security.
Again, the Patriots are in a position of strength on the board and that is partly thanks to the scheduling of Dennard’s punishment. The team might even trade down from its perch at No. 29 in the first round.
This week’s poll:

Zuri’s Top 5 needs for the Patriots in the draft:
1. Wide receiver
2. Defensive end
3. Cornerback
4. Nickel linebacker
5. Safety
Edelman’s intentions
Does Julian Edelman come back as strictly the backup Z receiver/returner behind Danny Amendola (Wes Welker’s old position), or does he come back with the intent to take snaps away from Amendola, too?
Edelman certainly caused a hubbub last season when he began the year with more snaps and more targets than Wes Welker. It wasn’t until Aaron Hernandez was injured in Week 2 and Edelman himself went down in Week 3 that Welker’s prominence rose again.
One has to wonder what the former Kent State quarterback’s intentions are, considering the contract he signed. At 1-year, $765,000, Edelman has no guaranteed money, according to reports. But he does have plenty of incentives built into his contract for receptions that could boost his entire pay package to $1.015 million.
But even more, if he ends up on injured reserve, his salary could be reduced to $383,000. As talented and enjoyable as he is to watch, he hasn’t been durable in his four years in the league, missing seven regular season games just last year.
One would think that as one of the top return specialists in the league (13.1 punt return average) he would have more than a few suitors around the league where he could easily fit into an offense and contribute. Either Edelman is very satisfied in his role in New England, or there may be a mix of roles for him to play going forward that we don’t know about. It makes the coming competition in training camp even more interesting to watch.
Amendola’s father suing Cowboys Stadium
Speaking of wide receivers, the father of new Patriot Danny Amendola is suing Cowboys Stadium after he was hit by a runaway golf cart while attending the Class 5A Division II Championship football game in 2011. Amendola’s father, Willie Amendola, was struck by the cart while being interviewed after the game along with a number of reporters. Amendola was a coach for Dekaney High school.
See video of the incident:

Willie Amendola is claiming “mental anguish,” “loss of earning capacity,” and “loss of enjoyment” because of the accident, in a suit that seeks more than $1 million in damages.
Tweet of the week

Input this
The signing of Tommy Kelly is being viewed as a positive move — at least with readers on Boston.com. Along with the other moves the team has made, notably Adrian Wilson, that excitement is starting to ooze out in the comments section on the Extra Points blog.
“Fatman” writes:

The Pats will be a top 10 D this season. Obviously injuries can change everything, but they have a ton of young talent, solid vets, and haven’t even finished putting all the pieces together. Biggest addition of the off season so far is Adrian Wilson. He may be older and not the best in coverage, but he is a monster. And, McCourty is on the road to being one of the best safeties in the NFL. They are a different team when he is back there. I’m also interested to see how the CFL guys do this season, if they make the team.

However, after doing some scouting, colleague Greg Bedard has a much more tempered view of Kelly, writing “Was surprised by his average play against the run. For such a big man (6-6, 325 pounds), Kelly is easily moved because he plays very high two steps into a play. Right now, pending any improvement from coaching, Kelly lags well behind Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick against the run. Kelly doesn’t shed blocks as well as Love, though he’s close with Deaderick.”
As per the usual, the team looks great on paper right now, but it will certainly look different in action and application come training camp and the regular season.
What’s coming
– The Pittsburgh Steelers have until Monday April 15 (Boston Marathon day!) to match the Patriots’ offer sheet for Emmanuel Sanders, which is 1-year for $2.5 million. The Steelers have $1.9 million in cap space, so they would have to make a roster move to retain him.
– The Patriots will have a pre-draft news conference with director of player personnel Nick Caserio on Tuesday April 16.
– The NFL schedule will also be released on Tuesday, April 16. We know the opponents, we just don’t know the order currently.
– The NFL draft is now 13 days away, April 25-27.
One last thing
Isn’t this great?


Zuri Berry can be reached at zberry@boston.com. Follow him on Twitter @zuriberry.

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