Gay signs qualifying offer with Patriots

Updated: May 24, 2007, 2:49 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Veteran cornerback Randall Gay, who started for the New England Patriots in their Super Bowl XXXIX victory but has been plagued by leg injuries in each of the past two seasons, signed his one-year restricted free agent qualifying offer with the team Thursday.

Randall Gay

Gay

The deal, based on the tender the Patriots made Gay three months ago, is worth $1.3 million. The three-year veteran was one of the few remaining restricted free agents in the league who had not signed his tender. Signing the deal means that Gay can participate in the organized team activities practices (OTAs) without having to sign an injury waiver, and can attempt to jump start a promising career stalled by the injuries.

Having Gay healthy again would certainly be a boon for a New England secondary that has been decimated by injuries the past three seasons.

Signed as an undrafted college free agent in 2004, Gay started in nine of his 15 appearances as a rookie and in all three of the Patriots' postseason victories that year. He had 38 tackles, two interceptions and six passes defensed as a rookie and, in the Super Bowl win over the Philadelphia Eagles, led all Pats' defenders with 11 solo tackles and added a pass defensed and a forced fumble.

In 2005, though, Gay suffered an ankle injury that limited him to five games. The injury required offseason surgery and Gay's rehabilitation stretched into the summer of 2006, when he started training camp on the physically unable to perform list. He then sustained a severe hamstring and appeared in just three games in 2006.

A former LSU standout, Gay, 25, is still highly regarded and, if he can regain his health and his playing form, figures to draw interest in the unrestricted free agent market next spring. The New York Jets brought Gay in for a visit last month as a restricted free agent, but did not propose an offer sheet to him.

Once the deadline for signing restricted free agents passed in mid-April, the Patriots gained Gay's exclusive rights, and he could not negotiate with another team. So it became only a matter of time before he signed the one-year, $1.3 million tender.

Gay is expected to compete for a nickel cornerback job in training camp.

For his career, Gay has appeared in 23 games with 11 starts, and has posted 50 tackles, two interceptions, seven passes defensed and two forced fumbles.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com