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Patriots.com News Blitz - 5/17/2006

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the average Patriots backup quarterback since Bill Belichick arrived in 2000 has been 34 years old with three years of NFL starting experience. The list includes John Friesz (2000), Damon Huard (2001-03), Jim Miller (2004) and, of course, Doug Flutie last year. But now that Flutie has retired, the Patriots find themselves with two options. They can stick with second-year pro Matt Cassel, who threw almost as many passes in last season's finale (20) as he did in his entire career at USC (33) and who turns 24 today. Or they can go the veteran route again, with a number of options still available on the free agent market. Some of the recognizable names include former Dolphins starter Jay Fiedler, ex-Bengals standout Jeff Blake, one-time Super Bowl starter Kerry Collins, Tommy Maddox (Ben Roethlisberger's predecessor in Pittsburgh), as well as the ageless Vinny Testaverde and part-time Bears starter Shane Matthews.

USA Today's Inside Slant" writes that in many ways Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is very different from the team's average fan. Three Super Bowl rings, two MVPs, a Hollywood actress girlfriend, visits with the Pope and endless other worldly travels tend to separate him from the average man. But for most of the off-season, Brady was very much in the same boat as the average fan as he watched veteran teammates such as Willie McGinest, Adam Vinatieri and No. 2 wideout David Givens depart through free agency. Despite his role as a team captain and franchise player, Brady, like those filling Gillette Stadium each Sunday in the fall, was resigned to watching from afar as his team went through a surprisingly extreme off-season makeover.

Mark Farinella of the Sun Chroncicle writes that Doug Flutie is no longer a Patriot, no longer a professional football player as well, and now he can finally settle comfortably into the unique niche of fame that he carved for himself out of four years at Boston College and 21 years of bucking the odds in the pro ranks. Make no mistake, he's earned it. Flutie's trek from Natick High School to the Gillette Stadium media workroom, where he announced his retirement, was truly the stuff of legend — not only for what was actually accomplished during that lengthy career, but also for the embellishments that were attached to it by over-enthusiastic New Englanders who regarded Flutie as their football messiah.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal also writes that New England has more than $10 million in available cap space at this point. It would likely prefer to sign Ty Law to a deal near the veteran minimum but laced with incentives that would allow Law to be compensated in the manner to which he's become accustomed. For Law, a possible Hall of Famer, returning to the Patriots to close out a great career makes sense if it's his legacy he's interested in. He would be positioned to become one of the few corners in league history to win four Super Bowls if New England rises again, and he also could set the Pats' record for career interceptions (he's tied with Raymond Clayborn at 36). Curran also offers Patriots notes in which he reports that the Patriots signed two rookie free agents yesterday. The Patriots added Patrick Cobbs, a 5-foot-9, 205-pound running back from the University of North Texas and Jakari Wallace, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound wide receiver from the University of Minnesota.

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes. Reiss also offers his latest Patriots mailbag.

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

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