Patriots Report: Dillon, 2 Signed, 2 Visit

The first day of free agency in New England was a busy one. News of three roster moves came as expected. Long time veteran running back Corey Dillon was officially given his release, while announcements of fullback Heath Evans and offensive lineman Billy Yates signings were made. The team also hosted two free agents and are close to signing another.

Corey Dillon #28 and David Thomas #86 of the New England Patriots celebrate Dillon's TD Oct 22, 2006 (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Dillon Departs

The New England Patriots did the expected today by releasing veteran running back Corey Dillon. The 10-year veteran requested his release once it was determined he would have a reduced role with the team in 2007. Dillon was acquired in a trade with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2004. He set the Patriots single-season franchise rushing record (1,635 yards) en route to leading the Patriots to their third Super Bowl in four years.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick commented on the release through a statement:

"On behalf of the New England Patriots organization, we respect and appreciate Corey Dillon's significant contributions to our team," said Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick. "Those contributions extend beyond his individual on-field achievements and his integral role in a championship season. They also include three years of veteran leadership and positive relationships throughout the team."

Dillon leaves New England as the 14th all time career rushing leader in NFL history.

Evans Back

The Patriots announced the signing of unrestricted free agent FB Heath Evans almost a week after news first broke that the 28 year old runner would return. Evans was signed by New England as a free agent on November 1, 2005. The 6-foot, 250-pound running back joined the team after starting the 2005 season on Miami's active roster.

Evans was originally selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round (82nd overall) of the 2001 NFL Draft. He spent four seasons with the Seahawks (2001-05) before joining the Dolphins as an unrestricted free agent on March 17, 2005.

Yates Returns

The signing of offensive lineman Billy Yates was also expected. The 6-foot-2-inch, 305-pound blocker was signed to the active roster from the Patriots practice squad on October 21, 2006. The Texas A&M product was originally signed by the Miami Dolphins as a rookie free agent in 2003. He has appeared in 3 games for the Dolphins and 8 for the Patriots with 3 starts in New England during the 2006 season.

The return of Yates adds much-needed depth to the Patriots offensive line. He has the versatility to play center and guard, an attribute the Patriots look for in their players. Terms of Yates' signing were not disclosed, but it is being reported that he signed a three-year deal.

Jacksonville Jaguars' Kyle Brady makes a first-quarter catch as Green Bay Packers defender Mark Roman moves in to make the tackle Friday, Aug. 27, 2004, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Coale)

Two Visitors

As first reported by Patriots Insider and, free agent Sammy Morris was the subject of attention by the Patriots at the start of free agency. The 6-foot, 218-pound former Dolphin visited Foxboro yesterday on the first day of free agency. A solid special teams player, Morris was the subject of New England's attention for not only his downhill running style - something Dillon was known for - but also his versatility and willingness to participate on special teams.

Morris has played for two teams in his seven-year career, the Buffalo Bills (2000-03) and the Miami Dolphins (2004-06). He has played in 94 games (23 starts) while rushing 374 times for 1,469 yards (3.9 avg.) and scoring 14 touchdowns.

Another visitor to Foxborough yesterday was 12-year veteran Kyle Brady. Brady, considered a solid blocking tight end, is being considered as a possible replacement for Daniel Graham who is the Patriots top free agent on the market. With Graham's certain departure, the 6-foot-6, 280-pound Brady would assume the blocking duties Graham was well known for.

Brady, 35, played for the New York Jets (1995-98) and the Jacksonville Jaguars (1999-2006). He has played in 183 regular season games (166 starts) while catching 334 passes for 3,449 yards (10.3 avg.) and scoring 23 touchdowns.

No impending deal is in the works for Morris, but Brady is expected to sign with the Patriots over the weekend.

Thomas Deal Close

Published reports indicate that the new England Patriots are close to a deal to land arguably one of the top free agents on the market in linebacker Adalius Thomas of the Baltimore Ravens. In what was considered a two horse race, the Patriots were aggressive in their negotiations to acquire the elite defender, convincing him to visit Foxborough over the weekend. Thomas is expected to arrive in Foxborough today for a physical and to hammer out the details of a deal that will make him one of the highest paid linebackers in the league.

Patriots Insider has been tracking the Thomas rumor step-by-step and will continue to update the status as more news becomes available. Members first learned that New England was as serious player for the defender on the Insider's Lounge, well before reports surfaces on the radio or in the media. Be sure to check out the latest on this and other news in the rumors thread here on the Patriots Insider message boards.

Patriots Insider Top Stories