Pats agree to one-year deal with James

Updated: April 17, 2007, 5:24 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

The New England Patriots, who seem to add a veteran cornerback to their secondary mix every offseason, on Tuesday afternoon reached a contract agreement with unrestricted free agent Tory James, who spent the past four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Tory James
James

An 11-year veteran, James will sign a one-year contract with a base value of about $1.35 million. The deal, counting incentives, can be worth as much as $2.7 million.

James, 33, is coming off a supbar 2006 campaign, but still notched 21 interceptions in his four seasons with the Bengals, and drew interest from several other franchises, including the Green Bay Packers, in recent weeks.

Most teams view James as a potential nickel cornerback and the Patriots probably will use him in that role.

He will provide the Patriots a veteran insurance policy in the event franchise cornerback Asante Samuel, who remains unsigned, does not participate in the club's offseason training program or misses the start of training camp. Samuel has said he wants a long-term contract and that he would prefer to be traded rather than sign the one-year qualifying offer of $7.79 million which New England has tendered him as a franchise player.

Another of the Pats' young cornerbacks, Randall Gay, remains a restricted free agent. Gay met recently with New York Jets officials and could still be signed to a restricted free agent offer sheet. The league deadline for restricted offer sheets is Friday.

Given that the Pats have struggled through a series of debilitating injuries in the secondary each of the past three seasons, developing depth in the unit is a priority.

James started all 16 games for the Bengals in 2006 and had 41 tackles, four interceptions and 10 passes defensed. But he fell out of favor with the Cincinnati coaching staff late in the year and the Bengals made virtually no effort to re-sign him once he moved into the unrestricted free agent market.

In 158 games with Denver (1996-99), Oakland (2000-2002) and Cincinnati (2003-2006), James has 429 tackles, 39 interceptions, 79 passes defensed, one sack, six forced fumbles and four recoveries. He earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2004 when he registered a career-best eight interceptions, and was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2005, when he had five pickoffs.

The former LSU standout, who entered the league as the Broncos' second-round choice in the '96 draft, has four seasons with five or more interceptions and five campaigns in which he had 10 or more passes defensed.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.