Since nearly the moment the confetti settled and Rob Gronkowski’s hips started to gyrate to the sweet tunes of LMFAO after the Patriots Super Bowl loss, we’ve been wondering if Chad Ochocinco’s career is over. When a 34-year-old receiver struggles for an entire season to learn an offense and is still struggling even now during June workouts (Deion Branch had to direct Ocho to his proper pre-snap position the other day), the end is near.
After Ochocinco had only 15 catches for 276 yards, the end already seemed inevitable. His career might not be over yet, but his time as a Patriot is…
Throw your juicy tomatoes, and let your jokes about Ochocinco’s trade value fly. I was thinking the same thing: how could the Patriots possibly think that a fading receiver who had fewer receiving yards in 2011 than Kenny Britt–the Titans wideout who played in only three games–would have any trade value whatsoever?
Welp, a 35-year-old Randy Moss managed to find a home after a full season away from football. That was through free agency, which is a different animal because a team is only sacrificing money (most of which isn’t guaranteed) and not future assets in the form of draft picks. Still, at the time it was remarkable that Moss had any suitors at all, and the same can be said for Plaxico Burress a year ago.
Ochocinco didn’t catch on in New England because he was never able to develop anything that resembled chemistry with Tom Brady. He was expected to play a veteran role similar to the one Moss will play this season in San Francisco. His assignment was simple: provide some depth while making a catch and a play every now and then.
But with Wes Welker the unquestioned leader of New England’s WRs and Branch behind him, there was little use for a slow, sluggish veteran struggling to comprehend an offense. Brady completed 401 passes, and 52 percent of them landed in the hands of either Welker or Branch, while another 32 percent went to Gronk and Aaron Hernandez. What was Ocho’s minuscule slice of the Patriot pie? 3.7 percent. Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, and Donte Stallworth have been signed during this offseason, and they’re all veterans who can be far more productive.
Somewhere in Cincinnati Mike Brown is chuckling heartily while proudly wearing an uncurved USS Ohio hat. The Patriots sent two draft picks (a fifth in 2012 that turned into wide receiver Marvin Jones, and a sixth rounder next year) for a player who was given a $6 million signing bonus before he even put on a uniform, and then earned an additional $1 million throughout the season.
Between the Ochocinco trade and the short-lived attempt to resurrect Albert Haynesworth’s career, the Patriots have three draft picks invested in two players acquired through trades that were colossal busts (they gave up a fifth-round pick in 2013 for Haynesworth). Far more was expected from two veteran players whose elite days weren’t too far in the rear-view mirror. After he had 1,047 receiving yards on a 65.4 yards per game clip just two years ago, Ochocinco is set to join Terrell Owens in the graveyard of receivers who abruptly plummeted in their mid 30s.
But there’s still hope, and we may sadly have to watch Ochocinco fall even further from the days when his name wasn’t Ochocinco. We can thank Moss and the glowing reports about his speed and agility during OTAs for that, but where could Ocho possibly fit? The Browns are arguably the most WR-needy team, but he’d be blocked by young receivers who deserve more time and touches. The Colts have been tossed around as a potential destination after they lost Pierre Garcon, but their veteran flier was already spent on Donnie Avery, who’s much younger and has far more upside.
My guess is that Ochocinco will follow the Moss route. Sit, wait, and hope that an injury leads to desperation during training camp, either this year or next year, even if it means missing a full season without retiring.
At least he’ll have a lot more time for condom boiling experimentation.