PATRIOTS: More News and Notes

The Patriots have been busy thus far this offseason. They have attended the NFL Combine, a number of pro days and have had discussions with free agents to be. As the NFL Draft approaches, more potential draft and free agent targets come into focus for New England. Here are some of the recent ones.

A quick look around to see what is happening in Patriots land.

Free Agent Target Missed

Linebacker Derek Smith has re-signed with the SF 49ers taking one of the Patriots off-season targets off the market. Smith, who has quietly led the Niners in tackles each of the last four seasons, opted to remain in the California rather than uproot his family for a better paycheck.

The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Smith is the type of impact player that the Patriots hoped for when they signed Chad Brown and Monty Beisel last season. The 31-year-old linebacker could have moved into the middle of the Patriots backfield allowing Mike Vrabel to return to his customary outside position.

Smith was one of San Francisco's prime targets among the 15 veterans who are/were scheduled to hit the open market as unrestricted free agents when free agency begins. In an interview late Monday afternoon, Smith said he received strong interest from other teams, but he wanted to end his career in San Francisco because he believes in the direction Nolan has the 49ers headed.

Keeping Smith off the open market is something of a coup for the 49ers, because he likely would have received a higher offer elsewhere than the contract he ultimately signed to stay in San Francisco. The deal is reportedly worth $8 million.

The Packers and Patriots were two of a number of teams reportedly interested in the former Arizona State product.

Free Agent Signings

After the release of CB Duane Starks a nearly two weeks ago, the Patriots have quietly re-signed a couple of reserve players. OL Ross Tucker agreed to terms Monday, while DB Hank Poteat re-signed last week. Tucker's agent, Joe Linta, told Patriots Insider early last week that the team was interested in having the versatile lineman back for 2006. Those negotiations culminated in his return when both sides agreed to one-year deal over the weekend.

Poteat was instrumental in adding depth to an injury-depleted secondary for the Patriots the last two seasons. By re-signing him now, the team allows the former Pittsburgh Steeler time to work his way into the mix during camp. Poteat was on the Patriots roster last off-season, but the team opted not to retain his services late in the preseason. He remained out of football until the Patriots re-signed him in October.

"Hank is a smart player," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said at the time. "He works hard. He is very diligent. He is a tough kid and he really puts a lot into the game."

Free Agent Discussions

- Kicker Adam Vinatieri appears to be destined for a new mailing address according to recent reports. Vinatieri was not enamored with the contract offer the Patriots made in an effort to retain his services. Although it would have made him the highest paid kicker in the league, reportedly the offer contained little guaranteed money, which appears to be the main sticking point. Had the team franchised Vinatieri, all of his pay (approx $3.1 million) would have been guaranteed.

Vinatieri is drawing interest in Dallas and Green Bay, although Dallas may have found another, less-expensive, option according to Green Bay is reportedly interested because of Vinatieri's experience of kicking in bad weather conditions. Something the Packers do often playing in Wisconsin.

One player the Patriots have available as an option appears to be off the market, whenever it does open. 49ers kicker Joe Nedney looks to be ready to return to San Francisco rather than head into the open market. The 49ers have an agreement in principle with the veteran kicker, but he cannot sign a contract with the team until the beginning of free agency, which is now scheduled to start at 12:01 p.m. (EST) Thursday.

- David Givens to the Browns are the reports surfacing out of Cleveland. It makes sense. Cleveland is looking to replace WR Antonio Bryant who had a productive season as one of the few bright spots on a dismal 6-10 Browns team. Givens understands that a number of teams will pursue him once free agency begins. The Patriots, as reported previously by Patriots Insider, are unlikely to retain the former Notre Dame product due to the high cost involved. Teams like the Browns, Packers and Vikings all have significant cap space to sign Givens to a lucrative contract, and all three are in the market for a receiver.

- Willie McGinest is another Patriot who remains in limbo while the delay of free agency continues. McGinest who has a cap number in the $8 million range understands that his contract was setup to be redone this season. While he's mentioned numerous times that he would like to return, it likely depends on the Patriots response to his contract demands.

Patriots Insider first reported that McGinest's camp was expecting to negotiate a new deal before free agency arrived, but discussions had not progressed and the linebacker expected to hit the free agent market. Although there remained the possibility that something could get done, sources indicated discussions took a turn south when the team wanted to cut more than McGinest's camp thought was reasonable.

Pro Day Targets

The Patriots scouting staff are on the move again, this time at pro days around the league. The recent events include UTEP, Miami and Minnesota among others. is reporting that New England is tracking another offensive lineman in UTEP's Josh House. House has been in contact with the Patriots and is receiving less attention than many of the other high-profile draft prospects the team is looking at.

One of those prospects is Miami's Eric Winston. Winston did not run at his pro day, preferring to let stand his performance at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. Winston sat down with Canes Times to provide this recount of his experience in Indy.

Minnesota's pro day included more line prospects like center Greg Eslinger, and guard Mark Setterstrom. Many of the scouts on hand were there to catch up with running back Laurence Maroney. Their pro day recap can be found here: link

At Boise State, the Patriots are looking at another lineman who could help them immediately in 2006. This prospect actually hails from Alaska and is athletic enough to play guard or tackle in the pros.

Be sure to stay tuned to Patriots Insider for more details as they become available. If you haven't checked the forums or the TIPLINE, you may want to visit those often to catch the latest news updates.

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