The Patriots won the heart - or at least the pocketbook - of free agent Tory James on Tuesday according to numerous published reports. James, an unrestricted free agent last with the Bengals, opted to accept New England's offer over those of the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints and the Oakland Raiders.
The 12-year pro spent the past four seasons in Cincinnati, starting every game for the Bengals during that period. James' ability to contribute (21 INTs in four seasons), his experience and durability appealed to New England head coach Bill Belichick. According to Adam Schefter of the NFL Network, James selected the Patriots because of his rapport with Belichick, and the team's winning tradition. James' agent confirmed the decision to accept New England's offer Tuesday.
Schefter reported that James' deal is for $1.3 million, and that he could earn an additional $1.4 million through incentives.
The 6-foot-2, 192 pound LSU product was originally selected by the Denver Broncos in second round of the 1996 NFL Draft. Since that time James has been a model of consistency missing only 2 games (2002) aside from his sophomore season with the Broncos, which he was forced to sit out due to a knee injury.
James managed 42 tackles, 14 passes defensed and 4 interceptions last year in Cincinnati. Over his career he recorded 402 tackles, 39 interceptions, 121 passes defensed along with 5 forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries.
James joins a unit uncertain of the return of Asante Samuel who was designated as the team's Franchise player but has stated publicly he wants to be traded. Other defensive backs on the roster include; Ellis Hobbs, Chad Scott, Eugene Wilson, Willie Andrews, Antwain Spann, Randall Gay, Eddie Jackson and Gemara Williams. Andrews, Wilson and Scott have all sent playing time at the safety position. Williams, Spann and Gay are EFRAs or RFAs who have yet to sign tenders for 2007. Jackson was injured in 2006 and was expected to take some time returning from the injury in 2007.
The addition of Kight was not totally unexpected, as EFRA's can only negotiate with their prior team until released or signed. Kight played in four regular season games for the Patriots, and two of their postseason contests.
Kight joined the Patriots July 31, 2006 as free agent after being out of the NFL for a season in 2005. Originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent by the St. Louis Rams in 2004, Kight bounced around between teams, spending time on Green Bay's practice squad (2004), and making one start for the Packers. He was also with the Jaguars and the Vikings before joining New England.
Gay Still Not Signed
Restricted free agent defensive back Randall Gay remains unsigned. According to his agent Harold Lewis, Gay has until the 20th to come to terms with the Patriots by signing the restricted free agent tender, or sign an offer sheet from another team. Gay visited the New York Jets last week, but Lewis intimated to Patriots Insider Jon Scott that the visit may be more of a recruiting trip for next season than a serious attempt by the Jets to recruit Gay to New York for 2007. The LSU product is due to become an unrestricted free agent in 2008 which would make him free to sign with any team without that team having to provide a draft pick as compensation to the Patriots. With the signing of James to the roster, it's possible that the Patriots may expect Gay to sign an offer elsewhere and are prepared to let him go for the price associated with his $1.3 million tender offer (a second round draft pick).