Could be the end for 14-year vet

Originally Published: July 7, 2004
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Less than three months after signing with the New England Patriots for a third tour of duty, cornerback Otis Smith was released by the team on Wednesday, perhaps ending the career of the 14-year veteran.

Smith, 38, was a favorite of Pats coach Bill Belichick and also Dallas coach Bill Parcells, and frequently followed one or both of the men from team to team. He had signed a one-year, $785,000 contract on April 13 as an unrestricted free agent.

Smith, who has played with four different franchises, appeared in 16 games last season for the Detroit Lions. He started 13 games and finished the season with 57 tackles and one interception.

Signed by the Pats to provide experience and leadership, and perhaps as an insurance policy against a potential holdout by cornerback Ty Law in camp, Smith likely was deemed expendable when the Pats added even more veteran cornerbacks after his signing.

Those other veteran corners, notably Terrell Buckley and Jeff Burris, are younger and serve the same purpose. Plus, it has become increasingly unlikely that Law, even with his unhappiness over his current contract, will miss camp time. Law attended New England's mandatory minicamp last month and has said he will report to camp on time.

In 14 NFL seasons, Smith played with Philadelphia (1990-94), the New York Jets (1995-96 and 1997-99), New England (1996 and 2000-02) and Detroit (2003). He has 525 tackles, 29 interceptions, 107 passes defensed, 5½ sacks, seven forced fumbles and 10 recoveries.

The former University of Missouri star who entered the NFL in 1990 as an undrafted free agent returned seven interceptions for touchdowns, the sixth most in league history. He had at least one interception in all but three seasons and appeared in double-digit games in all but two seasons.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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