Seeking to add veteran leadership to a very young wide receiver contingent, the New Orleans Saints on Thursday night signed unrestricted free agent David Patten, released earlier in the spring by the Washington Redskins, to a one-year contract.
The much-traveled 10-year veteran, who was part of three Super Bowl championship teams during his tenure with the New England Patriots, will try to resurrect a career that has slumped in recent seasons. Patten caught just one pass for the Redskins in 2006 and had only 22 receptions in 2005.
He became expendable when he fell behind three younger wide receivers on the depth chart and his salary became too exorbitant for the Redskins to carry.
In New Orleans, Patten will be counted on in part to lend guidance to one of the NFL's youngest receiver corps. The Saints' top three wideouts total only six years of league tenure and the departure of Joe Horn, who was released early in the spring and then subsequently signed with division rival Atlanta, took the most experienced veteran away from the unit.
"We believe that his track record as a proven winner, and his veteran leadership on and off the field will be a benefit to our team," general manager Mickey Loomis said.
Patten recently visited with New England officials, but it is not known if he was offered a contract. The Saints have considered a number of other longtime veteran wide receivers, and quarterback Drew Brees at one point recommended the team think about adding Keenan McCardell, his former teammate in San Diego.
Patten, 32, has 259 career receptions for 3,761 yards and 20 touchdowns, He has posted 35 or more catches four times and his best seasons came with the Patriots in 2001-02, when he averaged 56 receptions and 786.5 yards while scoring nine touchdowns. At one point, the former Western Carolina star was regarded as one of the fastest players in the league. He still runs well, but he has clearly lost a step in the last few years.
Originally signed by the Giants as an undrafted free agent, Patten has spent time with New York (1997-99), Cleveland (2000), New England (2001-04) and Washington (2005-06). He has appeared in 126 games and started 65 of them.
Financial details of the one-year contract that Patten signed were not yet available, but it is likely for the minimum base salary.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.