Gay ready to fill the void left if Samuel holds out
With the Asante Samuel situation still up in the air, New England retained some depth in its defensive backfield when Randall Gay signed a one-year $1.3 million offer as a restricted free agent.
An undrafted free agent out of Louisiana State, Gay's signing was expected after he didn't receive a contract offer from another team. The Jets had shown some mild interest, but never formally offered Gay a contract.
After a strong rookie season that saw him start at cornerback for the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXIX, Gay hasn't seen the field much due to injuries. Gay has spent most of the last two seasons on injured reserve, after starting nine games as a rookie.
Whatever happens down the road with Samuel, at the very least, Gay provides some much-needed depth at defensive back for the Patriots. New England placed the franchise tag on Samuel and despite the fact he's due to make $7.79 million this year, the Patriots top cornerback isn't happy about the inability thus far to get a long term deal done.
If Samuel does hold out, Gay would be in the mix to replace him as a starter opposite Ellis Hobbs. The biggest obstacle facing Gay is his inability to stay on the field. An ankle injury limited Gay to five games in 2005 and a bad hamstring cost him all but three games last season.
"The last couple of years, he's had some nagging injuries," Gay's agent Albert Elias said. "Last year, when the team put him on IR, they were trying to protect him and do right by him. They didn't want Randall to come back from that hamstring too soon."
|Cornerback Randall Gay #21 of the New England Patriots knocks down a pass intended for wide receiver Todd Pinkston #87 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the second quarter of Super Bowl XXXIX at Alltel Stadium on February 6, 2005 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)|
The one season when Gay was healthy, he did produce. In 2004, Gay played in 15 regular season games and recorded 38 tackles and two interceptions. Gay led the Patriots with 11 tackles in the postseason and forced a fumble in the Super Bowl. Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots coaching staff are now hoping Gay can stay healthy and regain the form he showed as a rookie.
Elias says that his client is healthy and primed for a big season.
"He's focused. He's in great physical shape," Elias said. "The guy runs a 4.3 40. He wants to have a good year. The Patriots gave him a nice tender, a very complimentary tender. He's looking forward to continuing his career, and hopefully, we can do something long term with them. Hopefully, Randall can continue to be part of their future."