|New England signee Kelly Washington (above) played at Tennessee, as did another new Patriot, Donte' Stallworth. (FILE/TAMI CHAPPELL/REUTERS)|
It's catching: Patriots sign WR Washington
Another day, another wide receiver added to the mix.
The Patriots continued the offseason reshaping of their pass-catching corps yesterday, agreeing to terms on a contract with free agent Kelley Washington. The deal comes one day after the Patriots agreed to a contract with Donte' Stallworth and one week after the acquisition of Wes Welker.
Much like Stallworth's agreement, Washington's contract could be as short as a one-year deal, or could turn into a longer-term arrangement. If all bonuses are picked up over the course of the deal, Washington could earn as much as $22 million over five years, according to NFL.com. The website also noted that Washington will receive a $300,000 signing bonus as part of the deal.
The key to determining the length of the deal will come next year when a significant bonus comes due. NFL.com reported the bonus payment to be $4 million.
With the agreement, and factoring in money needed to sign draft picks, the Patriots are now approximately $4 million under the $109 million salary cap. That likely means the team's free agent activity will slow considerably after the frenzy of the last 11 days.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 218-pound Washington has played four seasons with the Bengals but has not broken through, playing only 12 games the last two seasons and making only 19 catches. He did total seven touchdowns and 53 catches over his first two seasons, but he fell out of favor with coach Marvin Lewis. Some media observers felt Washington, who was limited by a hamstring injury in 2006, distanced himself from teammates.
Still, Washington generated early interest on the free agent market, mainly from the Dolphins, and to a lesser degree from the Titans.
He visited with the Patriots at Gillette Stadium Friday, spending time mostly with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and new receivers coach Nick Caserio because coach Bill Belichick and vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli were out of town.
"Kelley got a positive impression when he visited," said Chad Speck, Washington's agent. "There is an opportunity to contribute at receiver, and another factor was the chance to play with one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, who is in the prime of his career."
Considered a physical presence more than a separator, Washington, 27, joins a revamped receiving corps that includes Stallworth, Welker, Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, Chad Jackson, Bam Childress, Kelvin Kight, and Jonathan Smith.
Jackson, the team's second-round pick in 2006, is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the AFC Championship game, which seems to have contributed to the team's targeting of receivers in free agency.
Meanwhile, the offseason activity sheds a cloud of uncertainty over Troy Brown's future. The 14-year veteran, who is a free agent, has said he is taking a wait-and-see approach to free agency.
As for Washington, he will be reunited with Stallworth, his former teammate at the University of Tennessee. Washington was a third-round pick in 2003, Stallworth a first-rounder in 2002.
"The way we see it, and the way I think the Patriots see it, is that they are perfect complements to each other," Speck said.
In a statement released by Speck, Washington said he was "happy to be a part of such a great franchise" and "excited about contributing to the New England Patriots."
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.