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Analysis: A closer look at Patriots’ decision to release Albert Haynesworth

11.08.11 at 2:33 pm ET
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In New England, the Albert Haynesworth era began in July with the promise of new beginnings, but ended bitterly last Sunday, as the defensive tackle submitted a weak performance and was seen sniping on the sidelines with defensive line coach Pepper Johnson.

The 6-foot-6, 350-pound Haynesworth arrived in a deal with Washington on July 29 for a fifth-round pick in 2013. The Tennessee product, who had a checkered history both on and off the field, sounded excited for the fresh start that was afforded to him with the Patriots, and spoke optimistically about a new lease on his football life. He appeared to put his money where his mouth was, as he reworked his contract down from a seven-year, $100 million deal he signed with Washington prior to the 2009 season to a far more cap-friendly, incentive-based deal.

However, he struggled to stay on the field — Haynesworth sightings at training camp were few and far between. When he did play at the start of the year, he was disruptive, finishing the regular-season opener against the Dolphins with what would be a season-high 30 snaps and three quarterback pressures. In addition, he drew a pair of holding calls on Miami offensive lineman Richie Incognito.

It would be the unquestioned high point for him in a New England uniform. His snaps quickly tailed off, and he eventually sat for two games because of a back problem. From that point on, Haynesworth’€™s playing time declined significantly. And while there were occasional flashes of solid play — he talked on several occasions about still trying to ‘€œknock the rust off’€ — things bottomed out this past weekend against the Giants, where he was on the field for just nine of the Patriots’ 74 defensive snaps.

When he was on the field against New York, he clearly struggled — at one point, he was bowled over on a 10-yard touchdown run by Giants’€™ offensive lineman David Diehl, and on another play, he was rag-dolled by New York offensive lineman Chris Snee. He spent the majority of the second half on the sideline, at one point engaging in what appeared to be an animated discussion with Johnson.

‘€œWe had a lot of defensive linemen active, so they played in different rotations,’€ Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday when asked about Haynesworth’€™s playing time against the Giants. ‘€œVince [Wilfork] is a guy, obviously, that we don’€™t want off the field, but the rest of those guys, they can’€™t all play. One guy plays for a while, then somebody else plays, and we rotate them.’€

In the end, Haynesworth played 132 snaps in New England, and in games he was active, he was on the field for 31 percent of the snaps. According to Pro Football Focus, he got two hits and eight hurries on 83 total rushes with the Patriots.

Haynesworth made $32 million in his two seasons with Redskins, but his reworked deal had him taking home $1.5 million in base salary with Patriots. If he is claimed, the remaining $706,000 on his deal will be picked up by his new team (teams have until 4 p.m. on Wednesday to claim his contract). Otherwise, New England will be on the hook for the rest of the money this year.

Going forward, this will open up more playing time possibilities for second-year defensive tackle Kyle Love, who was ahead of Haynesworth on the depth chart at this point in the season, as well as third-year lineman Ron Brace. In addition, expect more overall responsibility to fall on the shoulders of veteran defensive linemen Gerard Warren and Wilfork, as the Patriots remain relatively deep at the position (barring injury) for the rest of the season.

Read More: Albert Haynesworth, Bill Belichick, Chris Snee, David Diehl
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