updated 5:30pm 3/20/08
A report first published by the website Profootballtalk.com, indicated that free agent cornerback Fernando Bryant would sign a deal with a new team in the near future. Since the report emerged, the signing has become official, Bryant is the newest member of the New England Patriots' defense.
The Detroit Lions released Bryant prior to the start of free agency, and according to an unnamed source, the site claims that the nine-year veteran drew interest from a number of teams including the Patriots.
The connection to New England is one that makes sense. Bryant was Detroit's man of the year, but has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. New England is in the market for cornerbacks after seeing Asante Samuel depart for a monster contract from Philadelphia while Randall Gay returned to his home state of Louisiana to play for the Saints.
New England signed defensive backs Jason Webster and Lewis Sanders to add depth to the position, but still needed another quality back. The Patriots are known for stockpiling players at positions of need heading into training camp, and have a penchant for adding veterans that other teams have given up on.
Fernando Bryant #25 of the Detroit Lions takes the ball away from Bernard Berrian #80 of the Chicago Bears on September 30, 2007 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. The Lions defeated the Bears 37-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Bryant was a first round pick (26th overall) of the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 1999 NFL Draft. . The former Jaguar signed on with the Lions in 2004 as an unrestricted free agent, but missed the better part of the 2005 and 2006 seasons due to injury. Ironically, Bryant started all 16 games for Detroit last year. It was the first time he started every game since the 2003 season.
Bryant also received interest from the Broncos and Rams according to PFT.
The Patriots currently have at cornerback: Webster, Sanders, and Ellis Hobbs as former starters with Antwain Spann, Mike Richardson and Tim Mixon available for depth. Willie Andrews played in some nickel defenses, while former first round pick Brandon Meriweather also saw time over the slot. Andrews and Meriweather are considered safeties, but could be called upon as extra defensive backs if necessary.