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Seymour agrees to an extension

Patriots lock up team's best defender with multiyear pact

Richard Seymour will be among the NFL’s highest-paid defensive players.
Richard Seymour will be among the NFL’s highest-paid defensive players. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)

As one Patriots employee put it yesterday, ''Just saw a 20-wheeler Brinks truck pull up to the front door. Seymour must have signed."

He was right. Arguably the best defensive lineman in the NFL, Richard Seymour will remain with the Patriots for the long term after agreeing to a multiyear contract extension that was under review by the NFL because of a rule that doesn't allow a team to change the dollars in a contract twice in the same year.

In any event, Seymour, who had talked in the past like a man who was not interested in giving a hometown discount, agreed to a deal that by his measure had to be at or near the top of the market for a defensive player.

While the details of the extension have not been disclosed, one league source indicated Seymour got at least a four-year deal that would average between $7 million and $8 million per season.

The amount of the signing bonus wasn't known, but it likely trumped what defensive tackles John Henderson (six years, $34 million with $13.6 million in guaranteed money) and Marcus Stroud (five years, $31.5 million with $12.5 million in bonuses) got from Jacksonville last month and last year, respectively. It's not known if it approaches the $16 million bonus Jevon Kearse got when he signed an eight-year deal with the Eagles in 2004.

Seymour, who was scheduled to earn $2.02 million this season, had said he wanted to be a Patriot for the remainder of his career, but also wanted to be paid as a top defensive end.

He held out briefly during training camp last season until the Patriots gave him a $2.5 million bump in pay for the 2005 season, with the promise the team would attempt to work out a long-term arrangement with Seymour's agent, Eugene Parker.

The agreement now ensures that Seymour, who would have counted $4.4 million against the cap this season, will continue to be part of one of the most formidable young defensive lines in the NFL. Although bonus figures will affect the majority of the prorated first-year cap hit, it may not be significantly more than what Seymour was already due to count against the cap.

According to NFL Players Association figures in February, Seymour was the 10th-highest-paid defensive end in the league, averaging $5.26 million per season. The highest-paid defensive end was Simeon Rice ($10.7 million), followed by Bryant Young ($7.87 million) and Jason Taylor ($7.86 million).

The highest-paid defensive tackle was San Diego's Jamal Williams at $6.74 million, followed by Stroud at $6.52 million.

In a 3-4 defense, some teams make the case that Seymour's position is really a tackle, but Seymour, 27, never saw it that way. He anchors a line that includes Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Jarvis Green, and Marquise Hill, all of whom are signed through at least the 2008 season.

The Patriots absorbed a huge public relations hit when kicker Adam Vinatieri signed with Indianapolis as a free agent.

They also failed to retain wide receiver David Givens, who signed with the Titans, and linebacker/defensive end Willie McGinest, who joined Romeo Crennel in Cleveland.

With no adequate replacement for Givens in free agency and no kicker anywhere near the equivalent of Vinatieri, including Martin Gramatica, whom the Patriots signed to a one-year, $585,000 deal, New England still has holes to fill, but the prevailing wisdom was the team would leave a sizable chunk of its salary cap to re-sign Seymour and wide receiver Deion Branch.

With $18 million in cap space available prior to Seymour's deal, the focus may now turn to Branch, who has also said he would like to remain with the Patriots long term.

A starting point for Branch would appear to be the five-year, $24 million deal Givens signed with Tennessee, which included a $6 million signing bonus. Branch's agents will likely argue he should get more than Givens.

Clearly, Seymour, who could have become a free agent following this season, and Branch, who can be an unrestricted free agent after this season, were the team's top two priorities.

Branch might have won himself more leverage with Givens out of the picture and the lack of quality receivers in free agency and the draft.

The Patriots now appear in good shape on the defensive line, though they may draft a player or try to add one in free agency who can spell Wilfork in the middle.

The Patriots have not made a major splash in free agency, signing lower-level players such as cornerback Eric Warfield and safeties Tebucky Jones and Mel Mitchell.

Ty Law has been having discussions directly with coach Bill Belichick on a possible return to the Patriots, according to Law's agent, Carl Poston, but the Patriots have not yet talked money.

''The talks have been on the level of Ty and Bill and nothing else," Poston said. ''It's been more of a feeling-out process. As I receive some offers on Ty, I'll present them to the Patriots and see what they think and what they can do."

Poston said he was expecting an offer for Law from the Seattle Seahawks last night and that Law is also waiting to hear from the Tennessee Titans on a possible visit.

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