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Johnson, McGinest and Pleasant to remain in New England

The Patriots made a number of moves Thursday including reworking the contracts of Willie McGinest, Ted Johnson and Anthony Pleasant to get under the $75 million salary cap. The team confirmed the renegotiated deals for all three players.

According to Johnson's agent, Jack Mills, his client's new deal is a renegotiation with an extension that makes it a three-year contract that includes a signing bonus of just less than $1.5 million and with a potential total value of $6 million.

While Mills felt his client would have had interest from other teams had he become available, in the end he believed New England was the best place for the linebacker. The new deal could keep Johnson in New England through the 2005 season.

"All things considered Ted is very happy," Mills said. "He wanted to stay in New England where his living situation is comfortable. We definitely would have had some other interest, but all things considered he is happy to stay in a place where he is comfortable with his situation, with the organization and with the coaching staff."

Johnson is coming off his best season since 1998, as he was healthy for the entire 2002 campaign. He completed the year playing in 14 games and finished second on the team with 96 tackles. He also added 1.5 sacks, one pass defensed and one forced fumble.

While terms of the McGinest deal could not be confirmed, Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick told Patriots Football Weekly earlier in the day that he expected the defensive end's deal to be finalized and signed by 4 p.m. Thursday, when all NFL clubs must be under the $75 million salary cap. Calls to McGinest's agent, Gary Uberstine, were not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

Pleasant's agent, Neil Cornrich, also represents Belichick and while calls to Cornrich went unreturned Thursday afternoon, the agent told Patriots Football Weekly late last week that the player expected to return.

"Anthony considers it a great fortune to have spent as much of his career with Belichick and Scott Pioli as he has," Cornrich said. "Nothing would make him happier than to complete his career with the Patriots."

A snappy deal

According to Thursday's Boston Herald the Patriots and restricted free-agent-to-be Lonie Paxton reached an agreement on a contract. The deal is reportedly worth more than $3 million over five years and makes the cult hero Paxton the highest-paid long snapper in NFL history. Paxton completed his third season in New England in 2002 and has been extremely consistent with his snaps in that time. Had he not signed the deal, Paxton would have become a restricted free agent at the start of free agency at midnight on Friday. Calls to Paxton's agent for further confirmation went unanswered on Thursday afternoon.

National stage

The NFL released its preseason national television schedule on Wednesday and the Patriots are on it. New England will kickoff the preseason against the New York Giants on Thursday, Aug. 7, at 8:00 p.m. at Gillette Stadium. The game will be aired nationally on ESPN. The other three Patriots preseason games had been previously released, although the dates and times are still pending. New England plays at Washington on the weekend of Aug. 14-18, plays the first game in the history of Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia against the Eagles between Aug. 21-25 and finishes the preseason at Gillette Stadium against the Bears between Aug. 28-31.

Weis reads more than defenses

Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis will participate in the "Read Across America" program this Monday, March 3 at the Community School in Cumberland, R.I. He will read to a group of approximately 25 third grade students for about an hour starting at 6:30 p.m.

League-wide cuts

A number of teams made moves on Wednesday in anticipation of today's salary cap deadline. Notables such as Bears quarterback Jim Miller, Dallas wide receiver Raghib Ismail, Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart, 49ers defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield and running back Stephen Davis were just some of the guys who were released for salary cap reasons on Wednesday. Today the Dallas Cowboys joined the cut party by releasing the NFL's all-time leading rusher, Emmitt Smith, to save more than $5 million on the salary cap.

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