The slow start to the Patriots offseason has picked up recently and that continued on Thursday with the team announcing the signings of safety Tebucky Jones and placekicker Martin Gramatica.
The Patriots originally drafted Jones – a former college running back – out of Syracuse back in 1998. He was moved to safety in his senior season with the Orange and drafted by New England to play cornerback.
Jones never really adapted well to corner and was switched back to safety when Bill Belichick became the head coach. He was part of a secondary that helped the Patriots win their first-ever Super Bowl title in 2001. That season Jones recorded 69 total tackles, 1 sack and 1 interception.
The biggest play Jones made that season ended up being a play that didn't count. In the Super Bowl against the Rams, Jones returned a fumble for a touchdown that apparently put the game away but it was called back because of a holding penalty on Willie McGinest.
Jones was traded to New Orleans in 2002 and spent two seasons with the Saints. He had the best year of his career in 2003 when he totaled 101 tackles and an interception.
Last season Jones played with Nick Saban down in Miami but injuries limited him to only six games and 39 tackles.
The addition of Jones - along with Eric Warfield and Mel Mitchell earlier in the week - now gives the Patriots veteran depth in the defensive backfield and makes for some good competition in the secondary come training camp.
The Patriots have been searching for a kicker ever since Adam Vinatieri left for Indianapolis. To help solve that problem, the team brought in former Buccaneers standout Gramatica. "Auotomatica" Gramatica – as he was once referred to – was out of football in 2005 after connecting on only 11-of-19 field goals with the Colts in 2004 while Mike Vanderjagt was injured.
Gramatica had four stellar years with the Bucs from 1999-2002 before spiraling downward in 2003 and being released. His powerful leg helped Gramatica connect on 14 kicks of over 50 yards during his time in Tampa Bay.
Gramatica had surgery on his lower abdomen early in 2004 and some believe that contributed to his struggles kicking the football because it affected his accuracy and power. He's now believed to be fully recovered from his injury, so Gramatica will have a shot to win the kicking job in training camp. The Patriots will likely bring in a young kicker to compete with the veteran but if Gramatica can revert back to his old form, New England could have a steal on their hands.