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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Lynch may be a safety net

Perennial Pro Bowler targets New England

John Lynch, the five-time Pro Bowl safety of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is interested in playing for the Patriots, a source close to the player indicated yesterday. The question is, is New England interested in Lynch?

The Patriots are prominent on the short list of teams the 32-year-old Lynch would play for, a list that also includes the Jets and Colts, according to the source.

Lynch, who has been told he will be released by the Buccaneers, appears to be cut from the same mold as current Patriot Rodney Harrison, a hard-hitting, intelligent safety. A secondary featuring a Lynch-Harrison combination would provide a great deal of intimidation.

Lynch has ties with the AFC East rival Jets because of his close relationship with coach Herman Edwards. Lynch also has a hook in Indianapolis because Colts coach Tony Dungy helped develop Lynch during their time in Tampa Bay. But Lynch, who won a Super Bowl with the Bucs two years ago, may feel the Patriots are his best chance to get back to the big game.

After cutting Pro Bowl safety Lawyer Milloy just before the 2003 regular season, the Patriots converted rookie cornerback Eugene Wilson to play alongside Harrison. Wilson quickly developed into a fine free safety but if the Patriots want to switch Wilson back to corner, there could be an opening for Lynch.

Lynch wanted to restructure his deal in Tampa, one that called for salaries of $4.1 million this year and $5 million in 2005, but the Bucs declined.

Extension accord?

The Patriots and linebacker Mike Vrabel have been negotiating a contract extension over the past week and may be moving closer to an agreement. The Patriots would like to lower Vrabel's $3.655 million cap hit this season as well as extend him past 2005, which is an option year. Vrabel is due a $1 million roster bonus and a $1.65 million salary for the upcoming season . . . Former Steelers punter Josh Miller may be in Foxborough Monday. Miller had been trying to work out a deal with the Dolphins, but it fell through late Thursday. "I had a nice opportunity to go to Miami," Miller told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "But it wasn't a place I wanted to live all year round with the family. I want seasons." The Steelers released Miller, who was due to earn a $975,000 base salary. The Steelers signed former Browns punter Chris Gardocki.

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