There will be at least one new starter in New England's secondary for the 2000 season. Unrestricted free agent cornerback Steve Israel has left the Patriots and signed a three-year contract with the New Orleans Saints.
Israel started the first 13 games at right corner last season before being sidelined with a sprained ankle for the final three contests. The eight-year veteran was solid in his third season in New England, as he recorded 56 tackles, one sack, one interception and 11 passes defensed.
After being limited to five games in 1997 because of a torn patella tendon in his left knee, Israel played 24 games and had 20 starts for the Patriots. His departure means a definite change at the starting cornerback spot opposite Ty Law.
Head Coach Bill Belichick said that the starter would be determined by competition during training camp. The candidates for are two-year veterans Tebucky Jones and Kato Serwanga, and first year man J'Juan Cherry. Jones and Serwanga both had starts at the corner because of injuries to Israel and Law late last season. Cherry was active for a pair of games in 1999, but did not see any action. New England also drafted defensive back Antwan Harris of Virginia in the sixth round (187 overall) over the weekend.
In other team notes, recently released tight end/long snapper Mike Bartrum has signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, and reserve defensive lineman Bob Kuberski joined the Denver Broncos.