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Patriots put franchise tag on Samuel

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Feb. 16, 2007) -- The New England Patriots designated Asante Samuel as their franchise player in a move that would keep the cornerback with the team for at least one more season.

The 26-year-old has played in 59 regular-season and 11 playoff games with New England since being drafted in 2003, and would have been an unrestricted free agent if the Patriots hadn't designated him as their franchise player.

Without the tag, the Patriots would not be compensated if he signed with another team.

"Asante Samuel is an outstanding player who has been a consistent contributor for us for several years," coach Bill Belichick said in a statement the team issued. "We hope Asante remains a Patriot for many seasons to come."

Samuel previously said he would like to stay in New England under the "right conditions." He tied Champ Bailey for the NFL regular-season lead with 10 interceptions last season.

New England drafted Samuel out of Central Florida in the fourth round, 120th overall, in the 2003 NFL draft.

Samuel has returned three interceptions for touchdowns in the playoffs, tying him for the most in NFL history with former Oakland Raider Willie Brown.

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