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Kittner on board; Miller to follow?

After spending much of the offseason searching for a suitable replacement for backup quarterback Damon Huard, the Patriots may have found a pair in one day.

The team officially announced the signing of Kurt Kittner, who spent the past two seasons with Atlanta. But a report on ESPN stated that New England also came to an agreement with Jim Miller, which would give the Patriots five quarterbacks for the start of training camp on July 29. The Patriots would only confirm the Kittner signing, however, and a call to Miller's agent, Joe Linta, went unreturned.

The Patriots obviously had interest in Kittner for quite some time. Back in April when the Falcons released the former Illinois star, the team put a waiver claim on him only to lose out to the Bengals, who finished 2003 with a worse record than the Patriots and thus were free to sign him. Cincinnati released him less than two weeks later, but New England was once again stymied by the waiver process and the Giants picked him up. When New York let him go, the Patriots finally had their man.

In five games with Atlanta last season, Kittner completed just 44-of-114 passes (38.6 percent) for 391 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions. He was pressed into service when Michael Vick was lost with a broken leg and backup Doug Johnson was ineffective in his place. Kittner's 32.5 passer rating certainly couldn't have wowed Bill Belichick, but the third-year man does have some extended playing experience, a claim neither Rohan Davey nor Kliff Kingsbury, the team's two candidates for Tom Brady's backup job, can make.

Miller, a 33-year-old journeyman who has spent time with Pittsburgh (1994-96), Jacksonville (1997), Atlanta (1997), Chicago (1998-2002) and Tampa Bay (2003), missed all of 2003 recovering from shoulder surgery. The Bucs placed him on the physically unable to perform list last August but released him in September. According to reports he will be unavailable until sometime around Sept. 1 as recovers from another shoulder procedure he underwent in February.

He last played in 2002 with Chicago when he started eight games, completed 57.3 percent of his passes and threw 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His best season was 2001 when he led the Bears to a 13-3 mark and the NFC Central division title while starting 13 of his 14 games.

If Miller has indeed signed, he would clearly be the most experienced option in a suddenly crowded race for No. 2. In 37 career games (27 starts), Miller has completed 610-of-1,046 passes (58.3 percent) for 6,387 yards with 36 touchdowns, 31 interceptions and a passer rating of 75.2.

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