Patriots release Gonzalez

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Last updated: 05/29/2012 4:39 PM

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Football
Patriots release former OSU WR Anthony Gonzalez

By Brandon Castel

Anthony Gonzalez will have at least one more hurdle to clear in his quest to revive an NFL career that seems to be slowly slipping away before really even began.

Anthony Gonzalez
Photo by Jim Davidson
Anthony Gonzalez

The former Ohio State wide receiver was released by New England Tuesday, less than three months after signing with the Patriots as a free agent in March.

The 27-year-old Gonzalez was a first-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2007 NFL Draft. He caught 94 passes for more than 1,200 yards and seven touchdowns in his first two seasons with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis, but injuries have limited him to just five catches in 11 games over the last three seasons.

He signed with the Patriots in hopes of jumpstarting his career with the help of All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady, but New England was already loaded — with both veterans and youngsters — at the receiver position.

Along with Wes Welker, Chad Ochocinco, Deion Branch and Julian Edelman — all of whom return from last year’s AFC championship squad — the Patriots added Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth to the mix at wideout.

They also drafted Columbus native Jeremy Ebert out of Northwestern in the seventh round (235th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Gonzalez would appear to be a perfect Welker-type receiver in the slot for New England, but he missed last week’s OTAs, and the Patriots released him in order to add offensive lineman Jamey Richard and tight end Nick Melillo to their 90-man roster.

Where Gonzalez goes from here is anyone’s guess.

A product of St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ohio, he was a 3-year letterman at the Ohio State University, where he starred alongside fellow NFL receivers like Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn Jr.

“Gonzo” had 87 catches for 1,286 yards and 13 touchdowns with the Buckeyes. He had 51 catches for 734 yards and eight touchdowns as a junior in 2006, and was selected as a second-team All-Big Ten receiver . Gonzalez opted to turn pro after that season — his fourth in Columbus — and he was selected with the 32nd pick in the NFL Draft.

Gonzalez had a breakout season in 2008, when he caught 57 passes for 664 yards and four touchdowns. It earned him a starting spot with the Colts in 2009, after they released Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison, but Gonzalez injured his right knee during the season-opener against Jacksonville and did not see the field again until 2010.

By then, Gonzalez was behind Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie — along with Reggie Wayne — in the pecking order. He played in two games and caught five passes for 67 yards, but injured his PCL in his left leg in week 8 against the Houston Texans and was placed on Injured Reserve for the rest of the year.

Gonzalez played in eight games last season with the Colts, but did not catch a single pass. He became a free agent at the end of the season. His health will continue to be a major question mark as he searches for a new team.

My Thoughts on Gonzalez:

It’s a shame Gonzo has never been healthy enough to show what he can do as a wide receiver. The offenses in Indianapolis and New England would have been perfectly suited for his skill set, but teams aren’t going to wait around forever for a 5-11 slot receiver.

The Colts gave Gonzalez five years to get himself healthy, and it just never happened for him in Indianapolis. I go back to the 2009 season, when Gonzalez was named a starter alongside Reggie Wayne.

That tells you what the Colts thought of him as a player when he was healthy, because they were still legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Once he got hurt that year, and came back to find himself behind Garcon and Collie, it had to mess with his psyche.

I still think Gonzalez could have a productive NFL career if he can get healthy and find the right system. Maybe that system includes his former quarterback, Peyton Manning, in Denver, or maybe there is a better opportunity for him elsewhere.

Brandon Weeden could use a sure-handed receiver in Cleveland, but only time will tell if Gonzalez can get himself healthy enough to help anyone, including himself.

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