The Patriots' aggressive free agent shopping continued last night and into today, with Dolphins receiver Wes Welker arriving in town to meet with team officials.
Meanwhile, as Welker gets ready to walk through the door, veteran linebacker and special teams standout Don Davis walked out, filing his retirement papers with the NFL. The 34-year-old Davis, who played the last four seasons with the Patriots, was one of the team's 13 unrestricted free agents this offseason.
"It was a decision that had been coming on, and one that I decided was best for me and my family," said Davis, who played in 148 career regular-season games and 12 playoff contests over his 11-year career. "It's time to move on."
Whether Welker moves on from the Dolphins remains to be seen.
As a restricted free agent, the 25-year-old Welker was tendered a one-year, $1.3 million contract by the Dolphins before last Thursday's deadline. Other teams can sign him to an offer sheet, but Miami retains the right to match any offer. If the Dolphins don't match, they would receive a second-round draft choice as compensation (the Patriots' pick is 60th overall).
The Patriots have yet to present an offer sheet to Welker, a fourth-year player who is coming off a career-high 67-catch season, but discussions figure to heat up today.
"I really think it's too early to get into conversations, the only thing right now is that he's on his way, traveling up there," said Vann McElroy, Welker's agent, earlier yesterday.
The last time the Patriots were active in the restricted free agent market was 2004, when they signed defensive end Rodney Bailey away from the Steelers with a one-year, $1.3 million deal.
Bailey suffered an injury in training camp and never appeared in a regular-season game with the Patriots.
As for Davis's retirement, he said a knee injury that landed him on injured reserve Dec. 9 was the final straw. He underwent surgery and would not have been able to run until August, at the earliest.
"That puts you in a situation where a team has to take a gamble on you, knowing you're a veteran player, and you never know how that turns out," he said. "For me, it was the right time, the right decision. I feel like I'm going out on my terms."
Davis, who entered the league as a rookie free agent in 1995 with the Jets, said he never envisioned he would play 11 seasons. He rates back-to-back Super Bowl championships with the Patriots in 2003 and 2004 as the high point of his career. Davis is unsure of his next career step, as he is considering ministry or a possible coaching position in the NFL.
In other free agent news, tight end Daniel Graham has visited with the Broncos and Raiders and was scheduled to arrive in Seattle last night. Graham's situation is expected to be resolved quickly, possibly today. Also, outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain visited St. Louis Saturday and while he was offered a contract by the Rams, he elected to continue shopping the market.
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.