New England was not able to pry away a restricted free agent for the second straight year when the Pittsburgh Steelers announced they matched the offer sheet the Patriots signed with running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala Thursday.
Fuamatu-Ma'afala signed an offer sheet with New England on April 16, but Pittsburgh had until today to match. The Patriots hoped to add him to the running back competition, where J.R. Redmond, Kevin Faulk, Robert Edwards and Patrick Pass will fight for jobs in training camp. The 5-11, 250-pound Fuamatu-Ma'afala has a nice combination of size and speed that the Steelers were not willing to pass on.
Patriots carry 10 picks in draft
Because Fuamatu-Ma'afala is staying in Pittsburgh, New England will not have to part with a sixth-round selection on Day Two of the draft. That gives the Patriots a total of 10 picks.
There has been much confusion over another sixth-round pick for New England. Last August New England traded a conditional pick to St. Louis for wide receiver Dane Looker. The condition was that if Looker made the Patriots roster, a sixth-round pick would go to the Rams.
Looker made the roster, but the confusion came in determining what year the pick was for. New England will send a sixth-round pick in the 2002 draft, not this year as was originally thought to be the case.
As it stands now, New England holds one pick in each of the first three rounds, three in the fifth and sixth rounds, and one in the seventh. The first (6th overall), second (39th), third (69th), one fifth (139th) and two of the sixth round picks (170th and 173rd from San Francisco) can be traded.
The Patriots also have four compensation picks that may not be dealt. They got a fifth (163rd), sixth (200th) and seventh (239th) from the league, and a fifth (149th) from the New York Jets as part of the deal that brought Head Coach Bill Belichick to the team.
Europe action kicks off Saturday
Several Patriot allocations will be busy in Europe while the NFL draft is going on. The NFL Europe seasons begins Saturday when Michael Bishop, Tony George and the rest of the Frankfurt Galaxy visit the Scottish Claymores. The first league game kicks off at 10 a.m. ET and can be seen live on DIRECTV.
Bishop and George will both start for the Galaxy. In his season previews on NFLEurope.com, FOX TV broadcaster Nick Halling, who has covered the league since its inception in 1991, called Bishop a "brave and creative" quarterback who has the Frankfurt fans excited, while he believes George will be among the top safeties in the league this summer.
Two other Patriots will also be in the game. Josh Rawlings will play tackle for Frankfurt. Handling the punting chores for the Claymores will be former Boston University standout Brad Costello.
The second game, also available on DIRECTV, pits the Barcelona Dragons on the road against Berlin at noon ET. For the second straight season there will be reason to follow the Dragons, who are counting on wide receiver Tony Simmons to handle a heavy load in the air attack. In his preview of Barcelona, Halling wrote that Simmons has "the potential to be the best wideout NFL Europe has ever seen."
Sean Morey will see time in the Barcelona secondary. Also playing tomorrow will be linebacker John Eskridge, who will go with Amsterdam to play at Rhein.