Continuing to work around the edges of free agency, the Patriots have agreed to terms on a contract with reserve offensive lineman Ross Tucker. Financial details of the contract are unknown, but it is likely a one-year contract for the veteran minimum ($545,000).
The 6-foot-4, 316-pound Tucker was signed by the Patriots on Dec. 13, 2005 due to a run of injuries on the offensive line. He was inactive for two regular-season games before making his debut as a reserve in the season finale against the Dolphins. Tucker was also inactive for the Patriots’ wild-card playoff win over the Jaguars but suited up for the divisional round loss to the Broncos, as a backup, when rookie Nick Kaczur was sidelined due to a shoulder injury.
The 27-year-old Tucker, who has appeared in 42 career games with 24 starts with the Redskins (2001-2002), Cowboys (2002), Bills (2003-2004) and Patriots (2005), provides the Patriots depth at guard and center. He’s the type of versatile player the Patriots often seek because of his ability to back up multiple spots.
With starting right guard Stephen Neal and offensive tackle Tom Ashworth set to become unrestricted free agents as of 12:01 a.m. EST on Monday, the Patriots currently have the following offensive linemen under contract for 2006:
Tackle: Matt Light, Nick Kaczur, Brandon Gorin, Wesley Britt, Jeff Roehl
Guard: Logan Mankins, Ross Tucker, Ryan Krug, Nick Steitz
Center: Dan Koppen, Russ Hochstein
Interior linemen Gene Mruczkowski and Billy Yates are exclusive rights free agents, meaning the Patriots can bring them back by tendering them contracts.
The Patriots entered the offseason with 17 players scheduled for unrestricted free agency. They have reached deals with linebacker Don Davis, cornerback Hank Poteat and Tucker.
The remaining players scheduled to become free agents as of Monday at 12:01 a.m. EST are:
Offensive tackle Tom Ashworth
Receiver Troy Brown
Linebacker Matt Chatham
Receiver Andre Davis
Receiver Tim Dwight
Running back Heath Evans
Tight end Christian Fauria
Quarterback Doug Flutie
Receiver David Givens
Safety Artrell Hawkins
Offensive guard Stephen Neal
Cornerback Chad Scott
Safety Michael Stone
Kicker Adam Vinatieri