The Patriots' release of Ras-I Dowling on Wednesday opens a spot on the cornerback depth chart. In previous projections, I had Dowling making the team, in part because the salary-cap charge to cut him was greater than the salary-cap charge to keep him.
Dowling projected as a No. 4 or 5 option at the position, with the chance to elevate up the depth chart if he could stay healthy.
If I had to make an educated guess on why the Patriots ultimately cut Dowling, who was one of the club's 10 offseason award winners, it's likely tied to health. Dowling hasn't played this preseason after coming up hobbled in an early training camp practice, and there sometimes comes a point when the team and player just can't get on the same page in terms of when the player is ready to return. Sort of like what we saw with cornerback Leigh Bodden a few years ago.
So now let's look at what's left at the position, with our projected depth chart and a quick-hit thought:
Aqib Talib (6-1, 205) -- Plays on the left side and can be used to sometimes shadow a top receiver as the club's top cover man.
Kyle Arrington (5-10, 190) -- Because of injuries and legal uncertainty surrounding Alfonzo Dennard, he is the clear-cut No. 2 right now; can move inside to the slot in nickel.
Logan Ryan (5-11, 195) -- Third-round draft choice from Rutgers draws some similarities to Arrington -- physical, hard-nosed, smart and plays inside and outside.
Dennard (5-10, 200) -- Played well as the No. 2 option last season, but hasn't been on the field much in training camp, and also has legal issues swirling.
Marquice Cole (5-10, 195) -- Five-year veteran is considered a top locker-room presence; on the field, he's primarily a slot option who can be a factor on special teams. Viewed by some as being on the bubble.
Justin Green (5-11, 195) -- Undrafted free agent from Illinois has practice-squad potential.
Stephon Morris (5-8, 190) -- Undrafted free agent from Penn State was re-signed last week after suffering an injury.
One other factor to consider is that Devin McCourty (5-10, 195) could sometimes factor into the cornerback mix. While he's spent the majority of his time at safety, he has position flexibility.