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Free agent Patten signs on with 'Skins

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The exodus of veteran players from the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots continued Thursday night, when wide receiver David Patten agreed to terms with the Washington Redskins.

Patten, 30, played in his eighth NFL season - and fourth with the Patriots - in 2004, finishing second on the team with 44 receptions and 800 receiving yards while tying for the team-lead with a career-high seven touchdown receptions. He became the second Patriots free agent to sign in as many days - veteran guard Joe Andruzzi signed a four-year, $9 million contract with the Cleveland Browns on Wednesday.

The departure of Patten and Andruzzi - both unrestricted free agents - follows the departure of three other veterans in the last week. Cornerback Ty Law, 31, and linebacker Roman Phifer, 36, and were released prior to the beginning of the free agency period on March 1. The team also declined to pick up the option year on the contract of 33-year-old wide receiver Troy Brown.With the free agent period just beginning, the Patriots made their first addition of the offseason by acquiring cornerback Daune Starks from Arizona.

Washington officially announced the signing late Thursday. The Washington Post reported Patten's contract with Redskins is for five years and $13 million, including a $3.5 million bonus. Patten made $1.25 million in salary and bonuses in 2004 in the final year of a three-year contract extension he signed in September of 2001. He was expected to sign his contract early on Friday, according to the Redskins team website, and held a press conference this morning.

Patten, who started 44 of his 54 regular season games with the Patriots, touched on leaving New England after playing in two of the team's three Super Bowl wins.

"I tell you what, if it wasn't for coming to such a great organization, that makes it easier," Patten said. "My hat is off to the Patriots organization and Mr. Kraft, who is a great, great owner. [They have] a great leader coach [Bill] Belichick. He'll go down in history. That was the first home for me. That was the first organization that believed in me.

"It was a really good time for me. The whole team - we got along really well. It's almost bitter-sweet. I know nothing lasts forever, but I feel like the best is yet to come for me. I know in time, I'll get over that."

Patten was primarily the Patriots third receiver in 2004, playing behind third-year players Deion Branch and David Givens. He played in all 16 games with 11 starts, rebounding from a knee injury that cut short his 2002 season. Patten's role in the offense diminished after Branch returned from a first-half knee injury, catching 15 passes over the final seven games of the season, along with just three in the postseason.

His best season with the Patriots was 2001, when he recorded career-highs in both receptions (61) and receiving yards (824) and led all New England receivers with five touchdown receptions. In his first season with the Patriots in 2001, Patten finished with 51 receptions for 749 yards and four touchdowns. He spent his first four seasons with the New York Giants (1997-99) and Cleveland (2000) before joining the Patriots.

Although it's not a surprise that Patten and the Patriots decided to part ways, his departure leaves the receiving corps with some uncertainty. Givens, who led the team with 56 receptions for 874 yards, is a restricted free agent. The team offered the 24-year-old Givens a mid-level tender offer of $1.43 million, and would receive a compensatory first-round draft if they decline to match an offer sheet. It is also still a possibility that Brown, who had 17 receptions for 184 yards, could return.

Branch, Bethel Johnson and P.K. Sam represent the only wide receivers currently under contract with the Patriots.

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