« Combine notes |
February 26, 2007
With free agency set to begin Friday at 12:01 a.m. EST, it's time to shift gears from the NFL Combine to the veteran shopping season.
With that in mind, here is one look back at the top 10 free agent signings made by the Patriots under coach Bill Belichick and vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli (2000-present):
10) David Patten -- A member of all three Super Bowl championship teams, he played in 54 games, with 44 starts from 2001-2004. Lining up at receiver, he totaled 165 catches and 16 touchdowns over that time.
9) Otis Smith -- After a one-year stint with the team in 1996, he returned in 2000 and played in 56 games (48 starts) over the next three seasons, helping solidify the secondary at cornerback.
8) Bobby Hamilton -- Unsung defensive end was one of the team's initial signings in 2000, and never missed a game in his four years with the club. Was cited by Bill Belichick as a fine tactician at end in the 3-4 defense.
7) Larry Izzo -- Signed in 2001, linebacker has been a fixture on special teams, most recently serving as captain. Has missed just one game since joining the Patriots, and also adds an important presence when it comes to leadership.
6) Joe Andruzzi -- When it comes to value, Andruzzi was one of the team's best. Signed one week into the 2000 season, he ended up starting 72 games in his five years with the team. A hard worker and leader on the offensive line.
5) Roman Phifer -- The classy linebacker played for the team from 2001-2004, starting 46 games and appearing in 59. Was known to come up with the big play at key times.
4) Antowain Smith -- Running back was part of a large veteran free-agent class in 2001 and was part of two Super Bowl championship teams. Totaled 1,157 rushing yards (287 carries) his first season; 982 yards (252 carries) his second season; and finished with 642 yards (182 carries). Wasn't flashy, but his grind-it-out style suited the team.
3) Rosevelt Colvin -- A surprise big-money signing prior to the 2003 season, he has overcome a career-threatening hip injury and hasn't missed a game over the last three campaigns. Isn't the feared pass rusher some projected he might be, but is still a key part of the 3-4 defense.
2) Rodney Harrison -- Had visited Denver and Oakland and figured he'd be staying out West when the Patriots called and asked him to take an overnight flight with his agent, Steve Feldman. Not having the time to pack a bag, Harrison arrived in frigid New England in his shorts, and has been a fixture since. A team leader and tone setter.
1) Mike Vrabel -- After four years with the Steelers, he arrived in New England in 2001 and his career took off. Has contributed in a variety of roles -- from pass-rushing linebacker, to run-stuffing linebacker, to goal-line tight end. Arguably the best athlete on the defense, he's a gritty competitor who has missed just three games while playing hurt when called upon.
TUESDAY LOOK-AHEAD: The plan will be to take a look at the Patriots' worst free-agent signings in the Belichick/Pioli regime.