Patriots reach agreement with fourth-round pick Mills

Updated: July 18, 2006, 9:24 AM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The New England Patriots have signed tight end Garrett Mills, the earlier of the team's two selections in the fourth round of the 2006 draft, to a four-year contract.

Mills is the third of New England's 10 selections in the draft, and their highest draft choice to date to reach a contract agreement. The Patriots last week signed sixth-round offensive lineman Dan Stevenson and seventh-round cornerback Willie Andrews to four-year contracts.

The 106th prospect chosen overall, Mills received a $462,500 signing bonus as part of a contract worth $2.072 million. The deal includes minimum base salaries for all four years, and an "escalator" that will allow Mills to increase his salary in 2009 based on predetermined playing time and performance levels.

Although listed as a tight end, the versatile Mills might be a bit short (6-foot-2, 241 pounds) to fill the traditional role at the position. But the former Tulsa star is expected to be used in a lot of different ways by the creative New England staff. Besides tight end, he can also play fullback and H-back, and was a superior special teams performer in college.

New England also chose a tight end in the third round, Dave Thomas of Texas, and the former Longhorns' standout likely will play more as a conventional tight end.

A 2-year starter in college, Mills had 201 catches for 2,389 yards and 23 touchdowns at Tulsa. His receptions are the second-most in a career for a Division I-A tight end and he is one of only four players at the position to gain 2,000 receiving yards. Known for his good hands and precise routes, Mills had eight 100-yard games.

His thick body and blue-collar mindset could make him a good fit as well for the fullback and H-back positions, although he may have to improve his in-motion blocking skills. Mills, who had 26 career tackles on special teams, started in 33 of 50 appearances.

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

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