The free agent tide turned a bit on Thursday as the Patriots acquired their first new face of the spring in the body of 6-3, 300-pound restricted free agent defensive end Rodney Bailey. New England signed the former Steeler to a reported one-year, $1.3 million offer sheet that included a $650,000 signing bonus last Thursday and got its man when Pittsburgh decided not to match the deal. The Steelers will now receive the Patriots sixth-round pick in this April's draft as compensation for the RFA loss.
Bailey originally entered the NFL as a sixth-round selection in the 2001 draft out of Ohio State. In three seasons with the Steelers he's played in all 48 regular season games with one start, tallying 38 tackles, 9.5 sacks and one fumble recovery as a reserve in Pittsburgh's 3-4 scheme. His most productive season came in 2002 when totaled 18 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
Last season Bailey registered nine tackles and two sacks while playing in all 16 games for the Steelers.
Pittsburgh's decision on whether to match New England's offer to Bailey became simpler on Wednesday when the club signed 49ers free agent defensive lineman Travis Kirschke to a reported four-year, $6.4 million deal that included a $1.1 million signing bonus. Kirschke started for San Francisco last season, but is expected to fill a backup role, similar to the one Bailey held in Pittsburgh last season, in 2004 for the Steelers 3-4 front.
The addition of the 24-year-old Bailey now gives the Patriots a strong core of young defensive linemen that includes Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green, Ty Warren, Dan Klecko and Ethan Kelley.
Up until Thursday's addition of Bailey, New England's other spring moves had consisted of the re-signing of free agents Kevin Faulk, Don Davis, Russ Hochstein and J.J. Stokes and the loss of four players, Damien Woody, Ted Washington, Mike Compton and Chris Akins, on the open market.
The Bailey acquisition also marked New England's first successful signing on the restricted free agent market under the direction of Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli. The team had been unsuccessful in previous seasons with offer sheets for running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala, tackle Spencer Folau, linebacker Mike Maslowski and defensive tackle Cedric Woodard.