Will Milloy line up against Patriots on Sunday?

Updated: September 4, 2003, 3:12 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Lawyer Milloy agreed to sign with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday, a day after being cut by the New England Patriots.

The move adds to an intriguing season opener -- the Bills host the Patriots on Sunday. In addition to Milloy, Drew Bledsoe, Buffalo's quarterback, is a former star in New England.

Besides significantly upgrading a young Buffalo defensive backfield, Milloy could provide insight into the Bills plans as they prepare for New England.

Milloy was expected to join the team for his first practice Thursday.

Coach Gregg Williams said he would have to first speak with Milloy before determining whether he would be ready to play this weekend.

Milloy was released by the Patriots for salary-cap reasons on Tuesday. The move created a stir, in part because Milloy was a team leader and had started 106 consecutive games over his seven NFL seasons.

Adding the bonus to his $4.4 million salary for this season, Milloy was to count $5.25 million against New England's cap.

The Bills, projected to have $4 million of room under the cap, were one of a handful of team that had made offers to sign the player.

The four-year contract is worth $15 million, nearly two-thirds of that in the first two seasons of the deal. Milloy will receive a $5 million signing bonus and base salaries of $2 million for 2003 and $2.75 million for 2004. The Washington Redskins, who finished as the runner-up team in the Milloy sweepstakes, offered about $6 million in the first two years of their proposal.

Milloy led the Patriots in tackles in 2001, when New England won the Super Bowl, and recorded 100 or more tackles five times. Last year he had no sacks, no forced fumbles and no interceptions. His 91 tackles were the fewest he'd tallied since becoming a full-time starter.

He's the latest addition to a revamped Bills defense that was bolstered last spring by the additions of linebackers Takeo Spikes and Jeff Posey and tackle Sam Adams. Together, they improve a unit that gave up 25 points a game, and managed a league-low 19 turnovers and 31 sacks.

Buffalo's current starters at safety are Coy Wire, who's coming off an encouraging rookie season, and Pierson Prioleau, a four-year veteran who was a first-time starter last season. Neither recorded an interception last year.

Bills president Tom Donahoe denied speculation that Milloy might have lost a step.

"We think he's still a good football player. Obviously the Patriots do too, they tried to keep them," Donahoe said.

Bledsoe had high praise for Milloy, having spent six seasons with the player in New England.

"I will tell you this that everybody that plays against Lawyer is aware of where he is and aware of his ability to make big plays," Bledsoe said. "As far as his speed, his aggressiveness, his physical style, I haven't seen a falloff at all."

Besides improving the Bills defense, Milloy would be valuable for Bledsoe to provide insight into the Patriots defensive plans.

"I would certainly love to sit down and pick his brain," Bledsoe said.

Wire welcomed the chance of the Bills landing Milloy, even if it meant Wire losing his starting job.

"Any time you can have a guy like that come in and help your defense, you're excited about it," Wire said. "This is a team game."

Earlier in the day, New England fullback Larry Centers didn't want to consider the prospect Milloy joining the Bills, their next opponent.

"That would be a nightmare," Centers said during a conference call with members of the Buffalo media.

Meanwhile, the Patriots are scrambling to prepare its defensive backfield for the Bills. The effort to fill the gap intensified Wednesday in the team's second practice without him.

Antwan Harris, Chris Akins, Aric Morris and Je'Rod Cherry all could take Milloy's spot, although coach Bill Belichick didn't say who would start.

"I think Chris and Antwan will probably get a good number of snaps this week, but Aric will also get some work there," Belichick said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.