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New England not standing Pat

The Patriots free agent maneuverings didn't end with the signing of Rosevelt Colvin. The team also is considering former Tennessee safety Aric Morris.

According to a report that appeared in Tuesday's Tennessean, Morris' agent, Jack Bechta, said the Patriots are among three teams interested in acquiring the former Michigan State safety, who will be entering his fourth season.

Morris began the offseason as a restricted free agent but had his $605,000 tender offer (the lowest tender) rescinded recently by the Titans due to sever salary cap restrictions. The Titans are so financially strapped that they currently sit just $2,000 below the $75 million mark.

Morris started 10 games in 2001 when an injury to starter Blaine Bishop pressed him into service, but he was relegated to special teams last season as rookie Tank Williams and free agent arrival Lance Schulters manned the starting safety spots. Morris saw action in all 16 games but had a limited role in the Titans subpackages.

Because of his lack of involvement in the team's defense, Morris had Bechta request that the team not tender him in the first place, but Tennessee sought to retain his services nonetheless. But when the financial restraints became overwhelming the Titans granted his wish and Morris became an unrestricted free agent.

Bechta reported the Patriots, Giants and Bears have all expressed interest but attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.

Morris has 57 tackles (44 solos), two sacks and three passes defensed during his three-year career. The bulk of those numbers were compiled in 2001 when he picked up 46 tackles in relief of Bishop. Last year he managed just nine tackles, eight of which were unassisted.

One of the knocks against him is his lack of discipline. Morris is an emotional player and occasionally that led to trouble. He was flagged for several unsportsmanlike conduct penalties last year, enough so that Titans Head Coach Jeff Fisher actually threatened to cut him if he committed another. He also had troubles in coverage during the 2001 season.

His strength is as a run stopper, making him best suited for strong safety playing close to the line. At 25 Morris would age youth and athleticism but envisioning him as a possible replacement to Lawyer Milloy or Tebucky Jones down the road might be a stretch. He would provide toughness on special teams and could add an edge to the coverage units.

Patriots notes

The Patriots are nearing a deadline to negotiate with Jones, who the team tagged as its "franchise" player just before the start of free agency. Jones is set to take up a little more than $3 million in cap space as the franchise player and the Patriots would no doubt like to negotiate a long-term deal to lower that number or trade him.

Teams have until March 14 (Friday) to continue negotiating with franchise players without losing the right to freely use the designation in the future. If the Patriots signed Jones to a long-term deal between March 14 and July 15, New England would lose the franchise tag for the length of the deal. The Patriots would still have the right to match any deal Jones signs no matter when the deal is struck, however, and would be due two first-round picks if they declined to match the offer.

The deadline has nothing to do with a potential trade, however. The Patriots could trade Jones at any time provided that the safety agrees to the franchise offer.

With that in mind, Jones has been the subject of several Internet trade rumors, most having him headed to New Orleans in exchange for one of the Saints two first-round picks (Nos. 17 and 18). Attempts to reach Jones' agent, Gary Wichard, were unsuccessful. …

Another interesting note dealing with Patriots safeties centers around Victor Green. Green is currently an unrestricted free agent but according to his agent, Nathaniel Lampley, New England has the right to match any offer Green receives, which is uncommon for unrestricted free agents. The Patriots would not be due any compensation if they failed to match any offer, but they would retain final say if they chose to keep him.

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