Pats add versatile Tucker to depleted O-line

Girding for the playoff stretch run, and addressing an area weakened by injuries for much of the year, the New England Patriots on Tuesday signed veteran and versatile offensive lineman
Ross Tucker, ESPN.com confirmed.

Tucker, 26, was released by Buffalo this summer after starting 12 games, mostly at left guard, for the Bills in 2004. The four-year veteran has worked out for a number of teams during the season and, while some clubs told him they would sign him for camp in 2006, none had offered him a contract for this year.

It is believed that Tucker signed a one-year contract for the NFL minimum base salary of $540,000, which will be prorated over the balance of the season. The Patriots will have to make a move to create a roster spot.

In four seasons, Tucker has spent time with the Washington Redskins (2001), Dallas Cowboys (2002) and the Bills (2003-2004). A former Princeton standout, he entered the league as an undrafted college free agent in 2001.

Tucker has started games at center and both guard spots during his career. He has good size (6-feet-4, 316 pounds) and is regarded as a blue-collar player, probably a better blocker in the running than the passing game.

New England has battled through injuries on its offensive line most of the season. The Patriots have started five different line combinations and the only players to start in all 13 games at the same position are guard Logan Mankins and Stephen Neal.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.