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Comings and goings: a transaction timeline

Time to take a breather.

If the pursuit of a Super Bowl title can be compared to a marathon, then this offseason, so far, has seemed like a veritable sprint.

Since returning from the Pro Bowl in mid-February, head coach Bill Belichick and his staff, along with player personnel chief Scott Pioli, have been busy. Twelve player transactions, plus a pair of assistant coaching moves, to be precise.

The pace appears to have slowed some, so now might be a good time to take a look at the Patriots-related transaction timeline:

Feb. 16

Cornerback Asante Samuel is designated the Patriots franchise player.

Belichick and Pioli hit the ground running. Less than a week after the Pro Bowl, they secured Samuel's services for at least one more season. Without the tag, he would have become an unrestricted free agent, and, with his 10 interceptions tying for the league lead in 2006, would have been a hot commodity.

In a statement announcing the move, the head coach remarked, "We hope Asante remains a Patriot for many season to come." Samuel has indicated a desire to stay in New England long-term. He and the team must now work out a deal.

Feb. 19

Nick Caserio is named wide receivers coach, replacing Brian Daboll, who jumped to the Jets.

Feb. 21

Safety Tebucky Jones is released. Signed in April 2006 after a three-year hiatus, his return to New England ended with a leg injury in the preseason.

Feb. 27

Bill O'Brien joins the coaching staff as an offensive assistant.

Mar. 2

The Patriots release running back Corey Dillon, while re-signing fullback Heath Evans and guard Billy Yates.

Dillon's departure came as no surprise. As the 2006 season came to an end, the 32-year-old hinted that his playing days might as well. Now, he's not so sure. Regardless, he won't be in a Patriots uniform in '07.

Mar. 3

Free agent gem Adalius Thomas, Baltimore's Pro Bowl linebacker, inks a deal with New England less than 48 hours after the free agent signing period begins. The Pats also sign tight end Kyle Brady and running back Sammy Morris.

Arguably the biggest name on the free agent market, the 29-year-old Thomas wasn't available for long. His quality time with Belichick in Hawaii convinced him to choose New England over other potential suitors.

Thomas is taking the jersey number 96, which he wore in Baltimore. Brady will don 88, while Morris assumes number 34.

Mar. 5

The Patriots trade for wide receiver Wes Welker.

The multi-talented Welker, who led the Dolphins in receptions last year, has been described as a younger Troy Brown (more on him in a minute). In addition to catching passes, Welker can return kicks, and has served admirably as a placekicker in a pinch. He'll wear number 83 in New England.

Mar. 6

New England re-signs its special teams captain, linebacker Larry Izzo.

Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain signs with his hometown San Francisco 49ers.

Mar. 7

Tight end Daniel Graham signs with his hometown Denver Broncos.

Mar. 13

Wide receivers Donté Stallworth and Kelley Washington sign with New England.

The addition of Stallworth, Washington, and Welker makes three the number of new receivers on the Pats roster. So, what of Troy Brown?

It remains to be seen whether the 14-year vet will be at Gillette for voluntary offseason workouts next week. For months, Brown has been asked repeatedly about his future plans. A source reportedly familiar with Brown told the Boston Herald this week that the career-long Patriots receiver is "one hundred percent" sure he wants to play in 2007.

If true, that begs the obvious question: where? The soon-to-be-36-year-old is an unrestricted free agent, so his options are manifold. He could re-sign with New England, sign with another team, or simply retire.

What's coming

The free agent signing period continues, and April's NFL Draft looms. May brings rookie camp, followed by mini-camp in June. The 2007 season officially begins with training camp in July, culminating with Super Bowl XLII in Arizona next February.

So take a deep breath. The road to Glendale is a long one, and the Patriots have only just begun.

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