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Patriots release cornerback Leigh Bodden

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Leigh Bodden had started only one game for the Patriots this season and had played 222 snaps before being released. (Icon/SMI)

In a shocking bit of Friday news, the New England Patriots released veteran cornerback Leigh Bodden, just two days before a key game against the Steelers. The move was first reported by Pro Football Talk.

Bodden's agent, Alvin Keels, confirmed his client's unexpected release to ESPN's Josina Anderson:

"He's enjoyed this time in New England, but after meeting with coach [Bill] Belichick this morning both parties agreed it was time to move on," Keels told Anderson. "Leigh still has a strong desire to play football and welcomes his next opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl. Leigh is totally healthy and can contribute right away."

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Bodden, who signed a four-year deal with New England worth $22 million prior to the 2010 season, had been demoted to the team's third cornerback slot earlier in the season. Rookie Ras-I Dowling took Bodden's spot in the starting lineup, alongside fellow cornerback Devin McCourty.

Dowling, however, is questionable for the Patriots' Week 8 game vs. Pittsburgh, meaning that Kyle Arrington may be forced into a start.

The 30-year-old Bodden had played 222 snaps this season, according to Pro Football Focus, with 22 passes being thrown in his direction. He'd allowed 12 completions and one touchdown, while breaking up four attempts.

Bodden originally joined the Patriots in 2009, following a miserable 2008 with the winless Lions. He started 15 games for New England that year but wound up suiting up just five times after inking that new contract in 2010 -- Bodden spent all of last year on injured reserve with a shoulder injury.

Now in his ninth NFL season, Bodden has 18 career interceptions and more than 350 tackles.

He doesn't figure to sit on the free-agent market for long, even if his demotion and subsequent release in New England will leave teams questioning his ability to start. If nothing else, a defensive back-needy franchise could give Bodden an opportunity as a nickel back.