By Michael McCarthy
Can Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots revive Bradley Fletcher’s down-and-out NFL career?
The Patriots are revamping their cornerback corps, with last season’s starters — Darrelle Revis (Jets) and Brandon Browner (Saints) — signing elsewhere after their roster bonuses weren’t picked up by New England.
Fletcher, whose contract with New England is for one year, will have a chance to compete for a starting role. The contract has a maximum value of $2.5 million, a source told ESPN’s Adam Caplan.
The Patriots have fourth-year players Alfonzo Dennard and Chimdi Chekwa, third-year man Logan Ryan and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler (second year) on the depth chart as outside cornerbacks, while seven-year veteran Kyle Arrington returns as the top option in the slot.
Fletcher, 28, became a lightning rod for fan frustration as the Eagles’ secondary struggled during the second half of the season.
Fletcher led the team with 26 pass deflections and returned a Cam Newton interception 34 yards for a touchdown during the Eagles’ decisive win over Carolina. After that game, however, it was all downhill for Fletcher and the Eagles.
He struggled to cover Jordy Nelson during the Eagles’ 53-20 blowout loss in Green Bay. A month later, he was beaten for three touchdowns by Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (photo above).
After getting beaten badly by Washington’s DeSean Jackson in another loss, Fletcher was benched for the Eagles’ season finale against the Giants. Officially, Fletcher was listed as injured for the game.
Fletcher signed a two-year contract with the Eagles during the 2013 offseason. Before that, he spent four seasons with the St. Louis Rams, starting 26 of a possible 64 games. Fletcher has eight career interceptions, including three as an Eagle.
The Eagles signed former Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell and former Giants corner Walter Thurmond this offseason to revamp their secondary, opting to let Fletcher sign elsewhere and cutting Cary Williams, who later signed with Seattle.