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Patriots refine goods on the production line

FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots swung a trade yesterday, sending offensive tackle Brandon Gorin to the Arizona Cardinals for a conditional draft choice.

While the deal might be minor, it's reflective of the team's successful program in developing offensive linemen under assistant Dante Scarnecchia.

The 28-year-old Gorin played in 39 games (23 starts) from 2003-05. But he was anything but a finished product when he joined the team in 2002, spending that year on the practice squad.

Gorin was eased into the lineup the next season, appearing in six games (all as a backup), before making his breakthrough in 2004, appearing in 17 games at right tackle, with 13 starts. He capped off the year by starting in Super Bowl XXXIX against the Eagles, then appeared in 14 games last season (10 starts).

Despite that production, the 6-foot-6-inch, 308-pound Gorin was fighting for a roster spot this season. The Patriots have Matt Light, Nick Kaczur, and Ryan O'Callaghan as their top offensive tackles, and O'Callaghan -- a rookie fifth-round pick out of California -- has progressed quickly at right tackle. Kaczur, a second-year player who started 15 games last season and plays both left tackle and right tackle, remains on the physically unable to perform list but is apparently close to practicing. First-year player Wesley Britt and rookie free agent Randy Hand are other tackles on the roster.

Agent Joe Linta, who represents Gorin, viewed the trade as a win-win situation.

``The Patriots were very opportunistic," Linta said. ``When Nick Kaczur comes back, Brandon might have had an uphill battle for playing time. Now he's in a situation where he could step in and start."

The deal is the second in as many weeks for the Patriots, who previously shipped reserve lineman Ross Tucker to the Browns for a conditional draft choice. The value of conditional draft choices is determined based on a criteria agreed to by the clubs, contingent on factors such as making the roster, or playing/starting in a certain amount of games. The picks are likely to be later-round selections.

Gorin, who entered the league as a seventh-round pick of the Chargers, isn't the only lineman to grow in the Patriots' system from modest roots. Stephen Neal was signed off the Eagles' practice squad in 2002 and Russ Hochstein joined the Patriots' practice squad in 2002 after being cut by the Buccaneers. Tom Ashworth, who signed a free agent contract with the Seahawks this offseason, was another who started on the practice squad after being cut by the 49ers.

From afar, Ravens general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome said he has respect for the Patriots' program with offensive linemen.

``I think in developing any position, the No. 1 thing is understanding what you want from that position," Newsome said. ``When a team has a profile of what they want that position to look like, they can develop linemen into that profile. I think Bill [Belichick] and Scott [Pioli] know what they want from offensive linemen. Then they put them in a system in which they're developed to do that."

Newsome worked as a special assignment scout under Belichick with the Browns in the early 1990s, and remembers that Belichick had a similar system for developing linemen at that time.

``He valued that so much that he had two offensive line coaches, Kirk Ferentz and Pat Hill," Newsome said. ``What that does is allow you to work with young guys and give them the individual attention they need."

In Cleveland, Orlando Brown and Wally Williams were two unheralded young linemen who developed into starters. Now in Baltimore, Newsome has had strong development from guard Edwin Mulitalo (fourth round, 1999) and tackle Tony Pashos (fifth round, 2003), and hopes for more of the same from others such as Chris Chester (second round, 2006) and second-year player Jason Brown (fourth round, 2005).

Newsome said teams that develop linemen usually do so by combining that attention with some patience.

``It might take a year, two years, or three years to determine if a guy can play or not," he said. ``You have two things you're balancing -- young linemen trying to learn the system, and at the same time trying to develop skills to get better. Sometimes that just doesn't go hand in hand."

Newsome said there are no secrets when it comes to the importance of developing linemen, or why teams often pay big bucks for developed linemen in free agency.

``It's because they're protecting the most valuable commodity [the quarterback]," he said.

In training camp and the preseason, Newsome added that it's unusual for NFL teams to have more than nine or 10 linemen who could be ready to play in a regular-season game. The Patriots might have felt they were close to eclipsing that number after adding young players such as Logan Mankins, Kaczur, O'Callaghan, and Dan Stevenson the last two years.

PATRIOTS CHAT Chat with Globe reporter Mike Reiss about the progress of the Patriots in training camp today at 2 p.m.

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