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Patriots beef up with Brace

By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / July 18, 2009
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With the long-term contract uncertainty surrounding nose tackle Vince Wilfork, the last thing the Patriots needed was a protracted negotiation with rookie nose tackle Ron Brace. While Wilfork enters the last year of his contract, Brace came to terms yesterday on a four-year deal with the Patriots.

Brace’s agent, Nate Haber, announced the former Boston College defensive lineman’s contract agreement via his Twitter feed, saying that Brace had to come to terms on a four-year deal with roughly $2.82 million in guarantees.

“Ron’s very excited to get his deal done with the Patriots,’’ said Haber via e-mail. “It’s a dream come true for him. We have a lot of respect for their organization, and we look forward to watching Ron develop in New England.’’

Viewed by scouts as a stout run-stopper, Brace was the Patriots’ second overall selection in the 2009 draft, the second of the team’s four second-round picks and the first of back-to-back picks at No. 40 and No. 41 (Connecticut cornerback Darius Butler) overall.

The Patriots have come to terms with three second-round picks and four of their top five selections. Only safety Patrick Chung, the team’s top overall selection and first of the second-rounders (No. 34), hasn’t reached an accord.

At 6 feet 3 inches, 330 pounds, Brace is a tough man to uproot on the field. That’s also the case with his local ties. Brace was born in Springfield, moved to Worcester when he was in middle school, attended Worcester’s Burncoat High, and then went to BC.

With Wilfork, who boycotted the team’s organized activities before attending the mandatory minicamp, at a long-term contract impasse, signing Brace before training camp was important for the team’s 3-4 defense.

Brace started his final 37 games at BC and teamed with B.J. Raji, a first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers, to give the Eagles one of the top interior defensive line tandems in the nation. Last season, Brace had 27 tackles, a career-high three sacks, and was second on the team with 11 tackles for a loss.

According to a league source, the Patriots also have come to terms on a four-year deal with fifth-round pick George Bussey, an offensive lineman from Louisville.

The 6-2, 306-pound Bussey was a walk-on at Louisville, forgoing a full scholarship to culinary school. He played both guard and tackle for the Cardinals.

Of the Patriots’ 12 draft picks, only Chung, third-rounder Tyrone McKenzie, and sixth-rounder Jake Ingram remain unsigned.

Nothing appears imminent with Chung. McKenzie, a linebacker, is out for the season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during rookie minicamp. Wynn Silberman, the agent for Ingram, said he thought the long snapper could have a deal in the next week or so.

Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.

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