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Dillon is the pickup

Patriots get him for 2d-round selection

Tebucky Jones for Corey Dillon.

It took a year, and three trades among three teams, but the "transaction" finally was completed yesterday, when the Patriots dealt the first of their two second-round picks in this weekend's draft to Cincinnati in exchange for Dillon, a three-time Pro Bowl running back and the Bengals' career rushing leader.

A year ago last Wednesday, New England traded Jones, its "franchised" safety, to New Orleans for third- and seventh-rounders in the 2003 draft and a fourth-round pick in the '04 draft. The Patriots then traded the Saints' third-round choice to Miami for the Dolphins' second-round selection this year, the 56th overall.

There had been speculation the Patriots would trade up in the first round to get a marquee back. If they were considering such a move, they
no longer may find it necessary with the acquisition of Dillon, 29, one of four players in league history to run for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons and once the owner of the record for rushing yards in a game.New England still has eight picks, including two firsts, and now less of a need for a back early in the draft. Cincinnati, building under second-year coach Marvin Lewis, has seven picks in the first four rounds with which to continue the project. The Bengals also rid themselves of a disgruntled star who was frustrated after seven consecutive non-winning seasons and expendable thanks to the emergence of Rudi Johnson, who stepped in last year after Dillon suffered a groin strain in the third game.

"I think everybody pretty much broke even," Dillon said last night. "We're talking about the New England Patriots. This is a Super Bowl team. They're the defending Super Bowl champs. They got exactly what they wanted. I guess Cincinnati got exactly what they wanted. Corey Dillon got exactly what he wanted. I'm happy and I'm a part of a great organization. It's a good deal all around."

Dillon, who turns 30 in October, has two years remaining on a five-year, $26.1 million deal. He was to earn base salaries of $3.3 million this season and $3.85 million in 2005, but to facilitate the trade, he agreed to a restructure that included a reduced base salary for this year. He can make up the difference through not-likely-to-be-earned incentives, which, if achieved, apply to the following year's cap.

Last season, Dillon, 6 feet 1 inch and 225 pounds, carried 138 times for 541 yards and 2 touchdowns -- the lowest totals of his career -- after averaging 288 carries and 1,253 yards his first six seasons. He was unhappy with his reduced role but says he isn't expecting a certain number of touches in New England. He also says his injury has healed. "I know they're a predominantly passing team, and I know they like to run the ball occasionally," said Dillon, a Pro Bowler each season from 1999 to 2001 and the owner of 18 Bengals records. "Whatever I can do to help the team win is fine with me.

"Everything is beneficial for not only myself but the Patriots as well. I think that everyone is comfortable with the [contract] situation, and that's all I could ask for . . . We'll see how the first year goes and hopefully we can do something long term. I truly feel like this is the place I want to be and I'm happy and I'm looking forward to retiring as a Patriot."

He had long since had enough of the Bengals, who went 34-78 during Dillon's seven seasons with them. On the third anniversary of his then-league-record 278-yard performance against Denver Oct. 22, 2000, and eight days after the trading deadline, he publicly demanded a trade. "I want out," he said. "Trade me to Dallas." He tossed his helmet, shoulder pads, and cleats into the stands at Paul Brown Stadium as he walked off the field following the season finale against Cleveland, and cleared out his locker the next day.

Appearing last month on Fox Sports' "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period" wearing a Raiders' No. 34 jersey, Dillon discussed a "power struggle" with Lewis, called long-time teammate Willie Anderson a "bum" for his comments critical of Dillon following the Browns game, and said he'd like to play for Dallas or Denver, adding, "I think I look good in the silver and black."

Dillon yesterday said he was joking about Anderson. And of his reputation as a disruption, he said, "To tell you the truth, I'm not a bad person. I'm just a competitor and I love to compete and win. It just wasn't getting done there. That's in the past. As you see me and as the years go along, you will get to know me and you will recognize that I am a good guy . . . I wasn't a cancer. It was just a point of my having a deep passion for winning. People view that in a different manner."

The Patriots have viewed him as possibly their guy since his early-season outburst. Oakland appeared to be the likely destination for Dillon, who probably would have been released after June 1. But talks stalled because the Raiders were offering only a third-round pick. About six weeks ago, New England entered into discussions, which included at least three teams, according to agent Steve Feldman. Things got serious Saturday, Feldman said, and he and Dillon visited Gillette Stadium Sunday. "If you snooze, you lose," Dillon said. "I'm pretty glad that [the other teams] did, because I couldn't be happier."

"We are very excited about Corey Dillon becoming a Patriot," coach Bill Belichick said. "Corey joins Kevin Faulk and our other very good backs to deepen an already competitive running back position. We acquired multiple draft choices with the intention of strengthening the team, and Corey Dillon and Rodney Bailey should help achieve that goal."

The Patriots play their second exhibition game Aug. 21 at Cincinnati. 

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