Patriots Fortify Secondary With Webster

The Patriots signed free agent cornerback Jason Webster this week in an effort to compensate for injuries.

With Terrence Wheatley's name now surfacing among the list of injured defensive backs, the New England Patriots are exercising any and all options to find help in the secondary. On Wednesday, the team re-signed veteran cornerback Jason Webster, who spent the entire summer in New England working his way back from injury only to get cut at the deadline.

Webster, 31, could make an immediate impact in the aftermath of an injury to Wheatley stemming from Sunday's game. The rookie cornerback landed awkwardly on his left wrist while breaking up a pass from Peyton Manning.

"Most of the things, I remember," Webster said Wednesday in reference to his experience with the Patriots this summer. "The coaches (Dean Pees and Dom Capers) did a good job of reiterating some things that we learned in training camp. That helped out a lot."

One of the reasons the Patriots chose Webster is because he knows the system and has some familiarity with what the Patriots are trying to do defensively.

"He gives us a little bit of depth in the secondary (at) corner and nickel back," head coach Bill Belichick said, "so we will plug him in there and see how it goes."

Starting DB Deltha O'Neal suffered a head injury two weeks ago, and has missed some playing time.
(AP Photo/Lenny IGnelzi)

As for Wheatley, Belichick simply said, "We'll see how that looks," offering no indication as to whether the rookie corner will be back anytime soon. The same goes for veteran Lewis Sanders, who has missed the last two games and was not at practice Wednesday.

Who else is available? Cornerback DeAngelo Hall is back on the market this week after the Oakland Raiders cut ties with the former first-round draft pick. Hall has not lived up to expectations in Oakland (neither has the team, for that matter) and would cost the team a lot of money in injury guarantees if he's on the roster next year, so the Raiders opted to part ways with the defensive back.

The Patriots may express interest given their need for depth in the secondary. Hall has 19 interceptions in just four full seasons, though his production has declined rapidly in the past few years. Still, he'd be an upgrade over Sanders, Webster or Deltha O'Neal. For the record, the Patriots already passed on Fernando Bryant, who is still out of work after getting cut by New England at the deadline, so they're hopeful but certainly not desperate.

Webster could help right away too, considering he spent 2007 in Buffalo and has some familiarity with the Bills' offensive scheme. The Patriots will play the Bills on Sunday.

"The skill position guys, especially the receivers, I had a chance to go against them (in practice) last year," Webster said.

He also got an up-close look at quarterback Trent Edwards, who has led Buffalo to a 5-3 start. "He's good," Webster said. "He's going to be a pretty good quarterback in the league. I think he understands the (Bills) offense. He's doing a good job of taking command of that offense. And his confidence -- he isn't afraid to make a mistake. I think that's why he's playing as well as he's playing."

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