According to Lori Pilger of The Lincoln Journal Star, Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was found guilty of felony assault on a police officer and misdemeanor resisting arrest. Dennard faces a maximum sentence of six years.
Lori Pilger @LJSpilger
Jury finds #Dennard guilty of assault on officer, resisting arrest, not guilty of assaulting Lincoln man. #Huskers2/20/2013, 4:40:02 PM
Dennard may soon give new meaning to the term "lockdown cornerback." Or he could avoid jail completely.
Sentencing is scheduled for Apr. 11, but until then, Dennard's status for 2013 remains uncertain.
This adds another layer of fog to a cloudy situation around the Patriots' secondary. Safety Patrick Chung and cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington are all scheduled to hit free agency on March 10.
There is a very real possibility that the Patriots could enter 2013 without any of their top three cornerbacks from 2012.
If New England has to enter the 2013 season without Dennard, the team should do what they can to retain either Talib or Arrington. While the prospects of a long-term deal for Talib are grim, the Patriots could still place the franchise tag on him.
If they were thinking about not tagging Talib, they should strongly reconsider.
Either way, the Patriots would be wise to target a young cornerback in the 2013 NFL draft, as there are a good deal of talented prospects. The Patriots have invested a lot of draft stock into cornerbacks of late, with seven combined picks in the first two rounds over the past six years, but it wouldn't be shocking for them to go that direction yet again.
Behind Talib, Dennard and Arrington, the Patriots have further question marks with the inexperienced Marquice Cole and the oft-injured Ras-I Dowling.
Indeed, this latest falling domino could leave the Patriots in a bind at cornerback.
Or could it?
Thanks to some crack reporting from Bleacher Report's James Ermilio, it was brought to my attention that felony assault of a police officer in Nebraska carries no minimum sentence according to Nebraska legislature, meaning Dennard could still avoid jail time.
Dennard's record prior to this incident includes just one speeding ticket he earned in 2010, and that could certainly play into the final verdict.
There is also some reason for optimism, given the fact that the prosecution did not recommend sentencing. But according to The Omaha World Herald, "typical sentences for a crime like this would range from probation to 180 days in jail." If sentenced to 180 days in jail, he would be released on October 8, 2013, rougly four weeks into the season.
The Patriots certainly could hope for the best, but they should prepare for the worst—which includes finding a way to maintain as much consistency in the secondary as possible.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained first-hand or via team press releases.