The New England Patriots announced that they have re-signed four of their own players: S, Rashad Baker; OL, Gene Mruczkowski; LB, Corey Mays and DL, Mike Wright.
New England continued to make moves to bolster the roster by re-signing more of their 2006 free agents in this third week of free agency. The moves -- just three weeks into the start of free agency -- supplement the spending spree that the team has embarked upon since the signing period began.
Baker and Mruczkowski were restricted free agents, while Mays and Wright were exclusive rights free agents.
Mike Wright is a third year defensive lineman who worked behind Vince Wilfork at the nose tackle position in the Patriots 3-4 defense. Experienced at tackle or at the nose, Wright's work ethic has enabled him to beat out other defensive linemen who were competing for his roster spot in 2005 and 2006. Wright originally signed with the Patriots as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Cincinnati on April 29, 2005.
Rashad Baker is also a third year pro. He was claimed off of waivers by the Patriots from the Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 7, 2006. The 5-foot-10, 198-pound defender appeared in just three regular season games for the Patriots as a reserve defensive back and on special teams. Baker was originally signed as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Tennessee by the Buffalo Bills in 2004. He appeared in 28 games over two seasons for the Bills on both defense and the special teams units.
Mays was originally signed by the Patriots as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Notre Dame on May 8, 2006. The 6-foot-1, 245-pound linebacker began the 2006 season on the team's practice squad before being signed to the active roster late in the season. His primary contributions came on the special teams units, although he did see limited action on defense.
Mruczkowski has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the Patriots since signing as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Purdue on May 16, 2003. The 6-foot-2, 305-pound lineman has spent time at both center and guard, and was listed third on the team's depth chart at center behind Dan Koppen and Russ Hochstein.
Instant Analysis: The moves were not completely unexpected as the team looks to build roster depth heading into the off-season program. Each player signed today was a backup in 2006, and should remain so in 2007.
The team had a devastating rash of injuries in the defensive secondary the past two seasons, so Baker's return adds a little depth from a young player who has experience in the system. Mruczkowki's return was a common-sense move by the team looking to continue its depth on the interior offensive line. He will compete with G/C Billy Yates who was also re-signed by the team this off-season. Mays performed well on special teams. With linebacker Don Davis' retirement, the team's needs to add big, strong, fast linebackers who can play special teams. Mays has shown an ability to be a contributor to that phase of the game and will get another solid shot to make the roster in 2007. The return of Wright was a necessity for the team, which has no viable backup with experience behind starting nose tackle Vince Wilfork.