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Patriots.com News Blitz - 02/24/06

Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe and John Tomase of the Boston Herald both report that the Patriots allowed a deadline to pass yesterday afternoon without placing a franchise tag on kicker Adam Vinatieri, effectively meaning the star kicker will have the opportunity to test the market as an unrestricted free agent. New England coach Bill Belichick said the team didn't designate Vinatieri as a franchise player, resulting in a $3 million salary for the 2006 season, because it ''didn't feel like it was the right thing to do." The Patriots have until March 3 to sign Vinatieri to a new deal.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that the Patriots chose not to apply the franchise tag to any of their would-be free agents before yesterday's 4 p.m. deadline. That means high-profile players like kicker Adam Vinatieri and wide receiver David Givens are that much closer to hitting the open market when free agency begins March 3. The Patriots used the franchise tag on Vinatieri last season, paying him $2.5 million. Because he's the highest-paid kicker in the league, Vinatieri would have gotten a 20 percent salary increase for 2006, bringing him past the $3-million mark. That would have made him the league's highest-paid kicker by more than $1 million. The chance exists that the team can work out a deal with Vinatieri or Givens before March 3, although Vinatieri indicated there's been no recent communication between he and the team about a new deal.

Rich Thompson of the Boston Herald reports that former Patriots linebacker, Steve Nelson announced yesterday that he will be stepping down from his postions as athletic director and head football coach of Curry College after a successful eight-year run to pursue a new career with Lighthouse Computer Services in Lincoln, R.I.

The Boston Globe's own Ron Borges offers an article on NBCSports.com which discusses the battle going on between team owners on the issue of revenue sharing.

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald writes that the Pats head into the spring with clear needs in the secondary. Somewhere, via the draft or free agency, the Pats must find a front-line corner and a safety who can play at a high level in case Rodney Harrison (knee) struggles in his comeback or Eugene Wilson remains the nonfactor he was in 2005. That means Belichick and Pioli must find those defensive backs who not only have the physical traits to cover receivers, but the toughness to come up in run support and the overall aptitude to absorb the most complicated defense in the league. The trick for Pioli and Belichick this week is to pick out the top collegiate specimens who not only can run and jump, but hit and think as well. They need strength and toughness. The two can't be mutually exclusive.

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes. Reiss also offers his latest Patriots mailbag which focuses on new contracts for wideout David Givens and kicker Adam Vinatieri.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.

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