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Patriots add ‘blessed’ Leon Washington to their arsenal

03.14.13 at 6:46 pm ET
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Soon after tweeting “negotiations!!!” while in a meeting with the Patriots, kick returner and running back Leon Washington went a step further by tweeting out a picture of himself in a Patriots hat, indicating that he had agreed to terms with New England. At the bottom of the picture, he tweeted, “#blessed Lets Go #Pats.”

About an hour later, the Patriots made it official, signing the veteran return specialist.

Washington, who turns 31 on Aug. 29, is a veteran of seven NFL seasons with the New York Jets (2006-09) and the Seattle Seahawks (2010-12). The 5-foot-8, 203 pounder, originally entered the NFL as a fourth-round (117th pick overall) draft choice by the Jets out of Florida State in 2006. He was traded by the Jets to the Seahawks on April 24, 2010 for a 2010 fifth-round draft choice. Washington was released by Seattle on March 12, 2013.

Washington shares the NFL record with Josh Cribbs (Cleveland) with eight career kickoff returns for touchdowns. He also tied an NFL record when he returned two kicks for a touchdown in a game against San Diego in 2010. Washington earned Pro Bowl honors in 2008 and 2012 and All-Pro honors in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

Washington has played in 103 NFL games with 14 starts and has registered 473 rushing attempts for 2,213 yards and 16 touchdowns, and 146 receptions for 1,127 yards and two touchdowns. He has also returned 168 punts for 1,668 yards and 244 kickoffs for 6,315 yards and eight touchdowns.

Indeed, ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report that the Pro Bowler signed a one-year deal to play with the Patriots, who did not reveal terms or length of the contract.

Washington is the leading candidate to replace Wes Welker on punt returns and could also provide insurance in the running game, should the Patriots not retain free agent running back Danny Woodhead.

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Read More: free agency, Leon Washington, New England Patriots, New York Jets

Wes Welker on leaving Patriots: ‘The hardest part was leaving Tom’

03.14.13 at 6:09 pm ET
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In his introductory press conference in Denver with the Broncos Thursday afternoon, Wes Welker took some time out to thank the Patriots everything they did for him over the last six seasons.

‘€œI’€™d definitely like to thank New England for the six years there and all the trust and everything they put in me — the opportunities I got. But I’€™m looking forward to being a Denver Bronco, trying to help this team win, playing with Peyton, good receivers and a good offense,’€ Welker said. ‘€œI’€™m looking forward to it.’€

One day after agreeing to a two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos, Welker talked about a variety of topics in his Q&A with the media, including the fact that he had to sell himself to Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway. He also said that even though he feels he left on good terms, he added, ‘€œas free agency went on, you kind of got the feeling to start looking for other opportunities.’€

Welker said the hardest thing was to leave quarterback Tom Brady.

‘€œThat was definitely probably the hardest part, was leaving Tom,’€ Welker said of his relationship with the quarterback. ‘€œHe’€™s a great competitor, a great player. A great friend across the board, so I wish the best to him.’€

It was widely believed that Brady restructured his own contract in hopes of the team keeping Welker. He was asked if he though he had a better shot at returning after the quarterback re-did his deal.

‘€œYeah, you never know with those deals,’€ Welker said. ‘€œYou just try not to think about it too much. You just try to focus on you. For me, it was just working out and getting ready for next year — trying not to worry about all of that.’€

Based on how the talks broke down between his camp and the Patriots, did he feel underappreciated at all?

‘€œI think that’€™s all relative,’€ Welker said. ‘€œI’€™m a Denver Bronco now, and I’€™m excited about it. I’€™m really not looking in the past on it, just looking forward.’€

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Wes Welker arrives in Denver

03.14.13 at 5:10 pm ET
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The Broncos Tweeted out this picture Thursday of wide receiver Wes Welker meeting Denver’s vice president of football operations John Elway. A press conference has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. for Welker to meet the media.

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Bill Belichick: ‘We are excited about Danny’s addition to our team’

03.14.13 at 4:07 pm ET
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The Patriots made it official Thursday afternoon, announcing the signing of wide receiver Danny Amendola.

‘€œWe are excited about Danny’€™s addition to our team and we look forward to beginning work with him this spring and into the future,’€ said head coach Bill Belichick in a statement issued by the team.

Here’s a portion of the press release issued by the team:

Amendola, 27, is a veteran of four NFL seasons with the St. Louis Rams. The 5-foot-11, 188-pounder, originally entered the NFL as a rookie free agent with Dallas in 2008 out of Texas Tech. He spent the entire 2008 season on the Dallas practice squad before being signed to the Philadelphia practice squad for the playoffs. Amendola began the 2009 season on the Philadelphia practice squad before being signed to the St. Louis 53-man roster on Sept. 22, 2009. He led the NFL in kickoff returns (66), kickoff return yards (1,618) and total return yards (1,978) with the Rams that season. He led the NFL in all-purpose yards in 2010 with 2,364 yards with 689 receiving yards, 81 rushing yards, 452 punt return yards and 1,142 kickoff return yards.

Amendola has played in 42 NFL games with 17 starts and has accumulated 196 receptions for 1,726 yards and seven touchdowns, returned 89 punts for 934 yards and returned 188 kickoffs for 2,776 yards. His best statistical season was in 2010 when he caught 85 passes for 689 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, Amendola played in 11 games with eight starts and caught 63 passes for 666 yards and three touchdowns, returned 17 punts for 122 yards and returned two kickoffs for 16 yards.

On the subject of Amendola, there’s some question as to just when it was he agreed to his deal with the Patriots, and how that may have affected things in regards to negotiations with Wes Welker. According to a report from Tom Curran of CSNNE, the Patriots signed Amendola on Tuesday, a day before they made a final attempt to sign Welker.

The news on Wednesday that the Patriots signed Amendola hours after they lost Welker to the Broncos made it look like they were making a countermove to try and replace Welker. However, it now appears that New England was fully prepared to move on from Welker., and already had a plan in place regardless of Welker’s decision on the Patriots’ offer.

Reports: Patriots eye possible return of bonus paid to Jonathan Fanene

03.14.13 at 3:34 pm ET
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According to multiple reports, the Patriots have won an appeal that allows them the right to challenge the $2.5 million they paid as part of a signing bonus to defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene.

Fanene, who was signed as a free agent last season, had health issues throughout the summer and struggled to stay on the field. He was released during training camp under the recently instituted “failure to disclose a physical condition” designation, and did not play at all in 2012. It remains to be seen if the Patriots will be able to apply that toward available cap space.

Ian Rapoport of was first to report the news.

In other league news, the Vikings have signed former Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel, according to Jay Glazer. Cassel was released by the Chiefs on Thursday, and some speculated if the former backup to Tom Brady could return to New England if the Patriots were able to find a trade partner for current No. 2 signal caller Ryan Mallett. But that appears to be done, at least for now.

Cassel, whom the Chiefs obtained from the Patriots in 2009, struggled the last two years after a solid 2010 season. Last season he played nine games, completing 161 passes for 1,796 yards and six touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He also fumbled the ball nine times, losing seven. Cassel, 30, was due to earn $7.5 million in 2013, but he became expendable after the team acquired Alex Smith from the 49ers and signed Chase Daniel as a free agent.

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Sean Smith’s deal could set the market for Aqib Talib

03.14.13 at 3:18 pm ET
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The cornerback market is starting to come into sharper focus, as the Chiefs have signed Sean Smith to a three-year, $18 million deal, with $11 million of that guaranteed.

That deal could provide a framework for a contract for Aqib Talib, who is also considered one of the better free agent corners still on the market. On the subject of Talib — who was dealt to the Patriots midway through the 2012 season and was an important part of the New England secondary down the stretch — he’s been linked to the Redskins on several occasions. However, at this point, it’s unclear if Washington could get him under the cap.

But to this point in free agency, it has been a rough run for cornerbacks, as the money that was there in year’s past hasn’t been there — for the most part — this time around. That depressed market should help out the Patriots, who are still believed to be interested in making an addition in the secondary.

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NFL free agency update: Chiefs release QB Matt Cassel

03.14.13 at 11:40 am ET
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Unable to find a trade partner, the Chiefs released quarterback Matt Cassel on Thursday. Cassel became expendable after the team acquired Alex Smith from the 49ers and signed Chase Daniel as a free agent.

Cassel, whom the Chiefs obtained from the Patriots in 2009, struggled the last two years after a solid 2010 season. Last season he played nine games, completing 161 passes for 1,796 yards and six touchdowns with 12 interceptions. He also fumbled the ball nine times, losing seven. Cassel, 30, was due to earn $7.5 million in 2013.

‘€¢ The Jets, apparently not impressed with what they’re hearing regarding offers for Darrelle Revis, reportedly are still listening but are not actively shopping the veteran cornerback and are not committed to trading him.

The Buccaneers were rumored to be actively pursuing Revis but were not willing to part with their first-round pick this year.

Revis, entering the final year of his four-year, $46 million deal, is believed to be seeking about $15 million per year in his new contract.

The Jets continued to say goodbye to players Wednesday, as leading rusher Shonn Greene agreed to a three-year deal with the Titans, cornerback LaRon Landry signed a four-year deal with the Colts and safety Yeremiah Bell joined the Cardinals on a one-year deal.

Read More: Darrelle Revis, Matt Cassel,
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