Patriots on move
Stallworth, Fells join free agent haul
While other teams went for the sexy free agent purchases last week - the NFL equivalent of waiting in line for the iPad 3 - the Patriots stuck to their usual open-market M.O., which is akin to bargain shopping.
While the Broncos were obviously thrilled Monday that Peyton Manning chose them over the Titans and 49ers, the Patriots were content to make under-the-radar moves for roster depth.
Tight end Daniel Fells, receiver Donte Stallworth, offensive lineman Robert Gallery, and cornerback/special teams ace Marquice Cole were brought aboard Monday.
The Patriots previously had signed defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene, receivers Brandon Lloyd and Anthony Gonzalez, defensive end/linebacker Trevor Scott, and defensive back Steve Gregory.
The Gallery signing might be insurance. Guard Logan Mankins had surgery after the Super bowl to repair a torn ACL, ESPN reported Monday night. He hopes to return for training camp, according to the report.
Fells signed for three years and $5.25 million according to ESPN, though the contract has a maximum value of $7 million.
An undrafted rookie out of California-Davis in 2006, the 6-foot-4-inch, 252-pound Fells played in all 16 games and started 15 for the Broncos last year, with 19 receptions for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers were a decline from 2010, when he had 41 catches for 391 yards and two touchdowns with St. Louis, but the Broncos’ leading receiver last season, Eric Decker, had just 44 catches.
Fells likely will be a needed third tight end for a team that regularly runs two tight-end formations and both those players - Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez - suffered injuries last season, with Hernandez missing games in each of the last two years. Fells is considered a strong locker room presence who learned from Alge Crumpler when they were teammates in Atlanta in 2006.
Stallworth’s return was a bit of a surprise; he was with the Patriots in 2007 as part of the team’s offensive reload. He had 46 catches for 697 yards and three TDs during that record-setting season, but he was gone the next year. He had a multiyear deal, but a large roster bonus after the first season made it all but a certainty he’d have a short stay.
Stallworth, 31, played with Cleveland in 2008, but on March 14, 2009, he struck and killed a pedestrian in Miami while driving under the influence. Stallworth pled guilty to manslaughter charges, was jailed for 24 days, and reached a financial settlement with the family of the deceased, Mario Reyes.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Stallworth for the 2009 season. He played in 19 games in 2010 (Baltimore) and 2011 (Washington) with just 24 receptions.
Stallworth told the NFL Network he spoke with Bill Belichick and had been waiting to return to New England since he left.
Gallery, the second overall pick in 2004 and thought to be one of the game’s great left tackles, is now a guard and coming to this third team in as many seasons. He signed with the Seahawks last year after parting ways with the Raiders after seven seasons. Gallery agreed to a one-year deal with New England.
Gallery will add some experienced depth on the line, especially if Matt Light isn’t with the Patriots in the fall and Mankins’s recovery takes longer than expected.
Cole, picked up by the Jets as an undrafted rookie, made a big impact on special teams, with 45 tackles in 37 games. He has one career start at cornerback, in the 2010 regular-season finale against Buffalo, and had two interceptions that day.
The Patriots have interest in former Chargers defensive lineman Luis Castillo. A league source confirmed that Castillo visited Foxborough Saturday.
Though San Diego would like to re-sign Castillo, and he has other suitors, he is injury-prone. He missed nearly all of last season with a broken leg and also missed six games in each of the 2006 and 2007 seasons.
But Castillo is 6-3, 290 pounds, could play both end and tackle, and is just 28, so he could be worth the risk at the right price.
Gonzalez’s deal is for one year with a base salary of $701,000.