Stallworth might spend just one year with Patriots

Updated: March 12, 2007, 1:30 AM ET
By Michael Smith and Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The Patriots continued their offseason spending spree, adding wide receiver Donte' Stallworth to their 2007 haul, league sources told ESPN.com.

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Donte' Stallworth
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Wide receiver Donte' Stallworth is No. 9 on ESPN.com's list of the top NFL free agents on the market. Story

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The deal -- negotiated by agent Drew Rosenhaus, who concluded a frenetic week in free agency by constructing a contract that met the needs of all parties -- can be as brief as one season or as lengthy as six. But for the Patriots to retain Stallworth beyond the 2007 season, a year in which he will make $3.6 million in bonuses and salary, New England will have to make a significant investment.

Stallworth will receive an initial signing bonus of $1 million, a roster bonus of $1.6 million and a $300,000 workout bonus, to go along with his 2007 base salary of $700,000. That totals $3.6 million for the coming season.

It's after the 2007 season, however, when the really big money could kick in.

For the Patriots to retain Stallworth for the 2008 season, they must pay him an option bonus of $6 million by Feb. 25, 2008. There is a subsequent roster bonus of $2 million due March 1, a second roster bonus of $1.6 million based on playing time, a base salary of $1 million and a $400,000 workout bonus. That totals an exorbitant $11 million for 2008, or a two-year total of $14.6 million.

To keep Stallworth for 2009, the Patriots would have to pay another option bonus, this one of $2 million, by Feb. 25 of that year. In terms of bonuses and base salary, the 2009 season would be worth $5 million to Stallworth, for a three-year total of $19.6 million.

Elias Says
New England Patriots
Donte' Stallworth signed with New England on Sunday, potentially giving the Patriots the type of consistent deep-threat receiver they have not had in decades. Stallworth had 38 receptions at an average of 19.1 yards per catch in 2006 with the Eagles. The last New England player to average more than 19 yards per catch in a season of at least 35 receptions was the Steamer, Stanley Morgan, who averaged 19.5 yards per catch in 1985. Elias Says

The final three seasons of the contract all include workout bonuses of $500,000 each and base salaries of $4 million each. The maximum value of the contract, if the Patriots were to keep Stallworth for all six years, is $33.1 million.

An initial report on ESPN.com saying the deal was worth a guaranteed $12 million was later clarified by a source, who said the deal -- with only one year guaranteed -- gives Stallworth and the Patriots flexibility.

The rationale behind the structure: Stallworth has the opportunity to register a huge season in 2007, playing with quarterback Tom Brady on a team that figures to be a Super Bowl contender. And after the 2007 campaign, the Patriots will have to dig deep to retain him, dramatically rework his contract or allow him to go back into the free-agent market. It was a creative concept developed by Rosenhaus, one accepted by several of the teams bidding for Stallworth, to maximize his client's earning potential. At the same time, it provides New England a big-play threat for at least one season, with the capacity to retain Stallworth beyond that, if desired.

Stallworth, who played last season in Philadelphia after being acquired from the New Orleans Saints, also was being courted by the Eagles, Dolphins and Titans.

Stallworth, 26, had 38 catches for 725 yards and five touchdowns for the Eagles in 2006. A first-round choice of the Saints in the 2002 draft, he has 233 career receptions for 3,516 yards and 28 touchdowns in 68 games, including 44 starts.

League and union officials are investigating a Philadelphia Inquirer report that Stallworth is in the NFL's substance-abuse program, sources from both parties told ESPN.com.

Citing unnamed sources, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday that Stallworth is a participant in the league program and that he could be subject to suspension if he suffered a repeat violation of its conditions. The newspaper also reported that a breach of the program's confidentiality agreement can warrant a league fine, and NFL and NFL Players Association officials began to seek possible sources for the leak Monday.

The Patriots have been busy this offseason, adding coveted linebacker Adalius Thomas, ranked No. 2 on ESPN.com's list of free agents, as well as Dolphins kick returner/receiver Wes Welker, tight end Kyle Brady and backup running back Sammy Morris.

Senior writers Michael Smith and Len Pasquarelli cover the NFL for ESPN.com.

Michael Smith

NFL Senior Writer
Michael Smith joined ESPN in July 2004 as a National Football League senior writer for ESPN.com, covering league news and major events such as the NFL Draft, NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl, and continues to write breaking news stories. He is also a correspondent for E:60, ESPN's first multi-themed prime-time newsmagazine program, which debuted October 2007.