The New England Patriots announced the signings of a pair of free agent wide receivers reported to have agreed to terms with the team over the weekend. Donte Stallworth and Kelley Washington officially joined the Patriots on Tuesday, becoming the second and third new targets for Tom Brady in 2007.
Head coach Bill Belichick praised the latest acquisitions in a statement released by the team.
"When Donté and Kelley were drafted, we were very interested in them as receivers who could help our offense and that feeling still exists"
After beginning his career with the New Orleans Saints, Stallworth was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles prior to the 2006 season. Philadelphia sent linebacker Marc Simoneau and a conditional draft pick to New Orleans for the speedy wideout.
Stallworth visited with the Dolphins, and Titans before agreeing to a reported 6-year $33 million deal with the Patriots. The lure of playing with a quarterback like Tom Brady appealed to the California native.
"I was fortunate enough to play with a great quarterback down in Philadelphia in Donovan McNabb," Said Stallworth via conference call Wednesday. "At the same time, you have Tom Brady who is one of the best quarterbacks in this era. Anytime you can play with a guy of that caliber, who is throwing you the ball, that definitely helps a lot."
In his one season in Philadelphia, Stallworth caught 38 passes for 725 yards and 5 touchdowns during the regular season.
After a college career at Tennessee, Stallworth was selected by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 2002 NFL Draft (13th overall).
Washington's and Stallworth were teammates at Tennessee in 2001.
Washington spent four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals in a relatively undistinguished before earning his trip to free agency. Buried on the depth chart and hampered by nagging injuries, Washington sought a better opportunity to see the field. He began free agency by visiting the Dolphins and the Patriots.
His decision to sign with New England came down to the Patriots history of success under Belichick and how he can be utilized in the offense.
"You can't pass up being coached by Coach Belichick and getting balls thrown to you by Tom Brady," said Washington via conference call Tuesday. "When it all came down to the pros and cons, New England was definitely my decision by far."
The 6-foot-3, 218-pound receiver has 72 regular season career receptions for 893 yards and nine touchdowns in his four-year career in Cincinnati. Washington, 27, was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the third round of the 2003 NFL Draft (65th overall).
Washington and Stallworth join wide receiver Wes Welker who was acquired from the Miami Dolphins via a trade. The three new pass catchers bring the total to eight, not including free agent Troy Brown. In addition to the newcomers, the Patriots have Jabar Gaffney, Reche Caldwell, Chad Jackson, Kelvin Kight and Bam Childress on the roster.