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How does Alfonzo Dennard’s conviction affect Patriots?

New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard walked along the sideline during the second half of the NFL football AFC Championship football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Foxborough, Mass. Jan. 20.

Elise Amendola, File/AP Photo

New England Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard walked along the sideline during the second half of the NFL football AFC Championship football game against the Baltimore Ravens in Foxborough, Mass. Jan. 20.

Alfonzo Dennard’s felony conviction of assaulting a police officer, and the misdemeanor for resisting arrest, now puts the Patriots in a precarious position.

The team won’t know for how long, if at all, the cornerback will be imprisoned until his sentencing April 11. At that point, free agency will have been open for a little less than a month.

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The Patriots now have three players in their secondary whose fates are up in the air. Dennard is facing up to a maximum six years in prison on the two charges, while the team also has to consider free agent cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington.

How valuable is Talib to the Patriots now? And for that matter, how valuable is Arrington?

Talib is one of three players the team may be considering applying the franchise tag to, with offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer and wide receiver Wes Welker in the mix. The price for tagging cornerbacks is costly, and Talib would cost around $10.7 million. With an estimated salary cap of a little more than $16 million to deal with 18 free agents, the price of making such a move could change the underbelly of the team.

The Patriots have to make a decision on a franchise tag by March 4.

The team does have options, though. Devin McCourty can be moved back to cornerback, while Tavon Wilson can take on more duties in the secondary. (Patrick Chung is also a free agent.) Cornerback Ras-I Dowling is also expected to return after suffering a season-ending thigh injury. McCourty and Dowling were initially envisioned as the Patriots’ starting cornerback duo when Dowling was drafted in 2011. But that plan went off the tracks when Dowling suffered back-to-back season-ending injuries and the secondary struggled.

The Patriots also have five picks in the NFL draft, which begins April 25.

Dennard is in a pickle here. Being convicted of assaulting a police officer is nothing to smirk about. His options here on out are limited.

But despite his conviction, and the position it puts the Patriots in, the team has a bit of maneuvering room if the development of younger players like Wilson and Dowling is a priority. Dennard’s potential loss gives these young players opportunities.

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