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New England eyes rookie free agents

So, who's next?

Randy Moss is being fitted for his Patriots uniform, as are Brandon Meriweather and the eight other players drafted by the Patriots last weekend. And they aren't the only new faces you'll be seeing around Gillette Stadium soon.

Player personnel VP Scott Pioli, head coach Bill Belichick, and his staff have no doubt been busy this week trying to fill up their roster with other rookies who weren't taken in the Draft. With New England's rookie camp scheduled for next weekend, May 12 and 13, there's still time for the team to stockpile rookie free agents.

And it seems a number of players have already inked deals to join the Patriots.

The most notable name so far may be Matt Gutierrez. His father, Paul, told the Ann Arbor News that his son had been weighing offers from several NFL teams, but ultimately chose to sign with New England.

One of the most highly recruited prep quarterbacks of all time, Gutierrez never lost a high school game at Concord (Calif.) De La Salle, a stone's-throw northeast of San Francisco. The 6-4, 232 pounder started three seasons for the Spartans, guiding them on part of their record-smashing run of 151 straight victories (1992-2003), the longest winning streak ever for a high school football team and one of the longest ever in all of sports.

Like another Bay-area QB on the Patriots roster, Gutierrez went to the University of Michigan, where he was expected to be the Wolverines starter in 2004. However, a shoulder injury forced him to the sidelines, where he watched freshman Chad Henne become a star. In his senior year, Gutierrez transferred down to Division 1-AA Idaho State, so he could play immediately.

He threw for more than 2,200 yards last season, tossing an equal number of touchdowns and interceptions (16). Gutierrez would be the third quarterback on New England's roster, behind Tom Brady and Matt Cassel.

Elsewhere, two players from the University of Texas, El Paso (UTEP) are reportedly headed to New England. According to the El Paso Times, Miner defensive lineman Zach West and wide receiver Daniel Robinson were negotiating with the Pats this week.

AggieSports.com published a story earlier this week indicating that another Lone Star State product, inside linebacker Justin Warren of Texas A&M, has signed with New England and will report next Friday, May 11. Warren shares both a high school and college alma mater with Pats d-lineman Ty Warren, though the two are not related.

"I'm just trying to be an official member of (the Patriots) and go along for the ride," Warren is quoted on the A&M website.

At 6-3, 237 pounds, Warren was the Aggies' leading tackler each of the past two seasons. He'll be competing at a position where youth and quality depth will likely be needed on the Pats roster.

Finally, Northern Illinois tight end Jake Nordin told a local newspaper that he chose New England over eight other NFL clubs vying for his services.

"It came down to having faith in my agent," Nordin said in a Daily Chronicle article. "He thought New England was the best chance for me to make a team, or get a shot on the practice squad. I was very happy to sign with New England."

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