The Patriots kept up their frenetic offseason pace yesterday, acquiring receiver Wes Welker from the Dolphins for second- and seventh-round draft choices this year.
The team then signed Welker to a five-year contract that the league-owned NFL Network reported to be worth $18.1 million.
Welker, 25, who enters his fourth season, is coming off a career-high 67-catch season. At 5 feet 9 inches and 185 pounds, he projects to play in the slot and is also a punt and kickoff returner.
Welker had been a restricted free agent, with the Dolphins tendering him a one-year, $1.3 million deal. The Patriots hosted him at Gillette Stadium yesterday and it was widely assumed they would sign him to an offer sheet, putting the Dolphins in a position where they could either match or let Welker go for a second-round draft choice.
But the teams opened trade discussions to avoid that sometimes contentious process, and the Patriots sweetened the deal with a seventh-round pick.
The Patriots' second-round pick is 60th overall, one of the last picks in that round.
In Miami, the deal was viewed as good value for a player who entered the league as a rookie free agent.
"It is always hard to part ways with individuals who have helped you win in the past," said first-year coach Cam Cameron in a statement. "But it's part of the business, and it's the most difficult aspect of this job."
Welker joins a receiving corps that includes Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, Chad Jackson, Kelvin Kight, and Bam Childress. Jackson is recovering from a torn ACL. Veteran Troy Brown, a free agent, also could return.
Receiver en route
After signing linebacker Adalius Thomas
, tight end Kyle Brady
, and running back Sammy Morris
Saturday -- and acquiring Welker yesterday -- one might think the Patriots' offseason would be slowing down. Not so, as the team is expected to host free agent receiver Donte' Stallworth
today. Stallworth played for the Eagles last season, appearing in 12 games and totaling 38 receptions for 725 yards (19.1-yard average) and five touchdowns. He entered the league in 2002 with the Saints as a first-round draft choice, and caught a career-high 70 passes in 2005. He was traded to the Eagles last August. The 6-foot, 196-pound Stallworth, who yesterday received a contract offer to return to the Eagles, is also scheduled to meet with the Titans. Stallworth is in the NFL's substance-abuse program, according to a report in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer, which might be affecting the interest in him in free agency.
Bonus kicks in
The agent for punter Josh Miller
said the Patriots told him they plan to pay a roster bonus (approximately $100,000) that is due next week, meaning Miller will be part of the team's mix for 2007. "He's confident he can win the job no matter who they bring in," said Glenn Schwartzman
, Miller's agent. The 36-year-old Miller had his 2006 season end Nov. 24 because of a shoulder injury. The Patriots also have youngsters Danny Baugher
and Tom Malone
under contract, and have the first right of refusal on any contract signed by Todd Sauerbrun
. . . Outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain
visited with the 49ers yesterday and was scheduled to visit the Steelers today. Banta-Cain previously visited with the Rams . . . Tight end Daniel Graham
visited with the Seahawks yesterday, following trips to Denver and Oakland.
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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