The Patriots kicked off what could be a busy offseason with the signing of seven minor free agents late Monday. Four of the players, cornerback Dyshod Carter, guard Brandon Gorin, defensive tackle Ken Kocher and wide receiver Scott McCready, finished the season on the Patriots practice squad. The team also re-signed wide receiver T.C. Taylor, as well as two new faces in linebacker Courtney Ledyard and quarterback Shane Stafford.
Ledyard, a 25-year old out of Michigan State, originally signed with the New York Jets as a rookie free agent in 2000. A 6-2, 250-pound linebacker, he played in four games for the Jets that season and was credited with one special teams tackle. He was released by the Jets on Sept. 10, 2001.
Stafford is a 6-3, 220-pound quarterback out of the University of Connecticut. The 26-year old former Connecticut starting signal caller spent the last two seasons with the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League. This past season he completed 203-of-323 passes for 2,164 yards and 39 touchdowns with just 7 interceptions. In his career at Connecticut he started 38-of-40 games, completing 563-of-1,026 passes for 8,975 yards and 73 touchdowns with 29 interceptions.
Of the five players with experience with the team that signed yesterday, Gorin may have the biggest upside. The 6-6, 302-pound lineman signed to the Patriots practice squad last Sept. 5 and remained on the squad for the rest of the season. The former three-year starter at Purdue, where he was a teammate of Patriots starting left tackle Matt Light, reportedly had opportunities throughout the 2002 season to sign on to the active roster of other NFL teams, but chose to stay in New England where he was being paid like a player on the active roster. Gorin reportedly had a $300,000 contract in 2002, while most practice squad players are paid just $4,000 a week. With the lack of continuity and certain degree of uncertainty on the Patriots offensive line, it would appear that Gorin could compete for a roster spot in 2003.
Carter, Kocher, McCready and Taylor would all have to be considered long shots in terms of earning a roster spot next fall.