Hartwell Draws More Interest

The New England Patriots have looked at free agent linebackers including Ed Hartwell. After landing free agent Adalius Thomas, New England may wait before signing another free agent backer. Jon Scott has the latest on Hartwell's situation including news that some other teams are interested in the free agent.

Ed Hartwell is still fielding calls for his services, and the Patriots are one of the teams still in the mix according to Hartwell's agent, Harold Lewis.

Hartwell is fighting his way back from various injuries to his knee and ankle, which may be why teams haven't been in a rush to get him signed. "He's about 90-95% right now," Lewis said Tuesday afternoon. "We expect he'll be back to 100% pretty soon.

When asked how the interest level has been in his client, Lewis noted that a number of teams are in the mix for his services. "The Patriots, Eagles, Broncos and Bengals have all shown interest in [Hartwell]," Lewis offered. "Tampa Bay is another team that is showing some interest."

Linebacker Edgerton Hartwell #56 of the Baltimore Ravens October 31, 2004 (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Numerous reports connected Hartwell to the Patriots earlier this off-season, for good reason. Hartwell was a force when he played in the Ravens 3-4 defense, and should be a good fit for the Patriots scheme.

Hartwell's old coach, Marvin Lewis -- the former defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens -- has specifically shown interest in his client Hartwell's best season came under the guidance of Marvin Lewis just a couple years after Baltimore's defense dominated the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. Hartwell turned in a 142 tackle (103 solo) performance with 3 sacks and four passes defensed.

A healthy Hartwell could be the player the Patriots have been looking for to work alongside or in rotation with Tedy Bruschi on the Patriots interior. It would also team him up with former teammate Adalius Thomas joined the Patriots on March 2nd, after spending his first six seasons with the Ravens. Unfortunately, injuries have hurt Hartwell's performance, since signing a 6-year $26.25 million deal with the Falcons in 2004. He appeared in just 13 of 32 games over that span.

Hartwell will need to prove he can play before some team is willing to sign him to a contract. Few teams are going to offer him a deal with any guaranteed money until he shows he's healthy, which is why Hartwell's agent believes that a one-year deal is what they'll get done with someone. Play one season healthy to prove his doubters wrong, then sign a deal that rewards him for the type of player he can be again is the strategy.

"We're trying to find the right place," Lewis said. "Ed wants to be more than just a role player, he wants the opportunity to start."

New England has already shown that they're willing to offer contracts to players who have something to prove. Donte Stallworth and Kelley Washington signed deals that are basically one year "Prove it" contracts. It's possible Hartwell can be the next on the list. At 28, he still has time to work that final big contract. New England signed Hartwell's former teammate Thomas to a big contract in early March. Thomas turns 30 in August.

For now Hartwell sits at home, rehabbing his injury

Lewis said he would like to have something in place for his client by the Draft. The NFL Draft is just 17 days away.

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