FOXBORO, Mass. - The New England Patriots announced that they have signed four free agents today, wide receiver Donald Hayes, safety Chris Hayes, defensive tackle Rick Lyle and fullback Scott Dragos. Terms of the agreements were not disclosed.
Donald Hayes, 26, joins the Patriots after four seasons with the Carolina Panthers. The 6-foot-4-inch, 208-pound receiver became a full-time starter for the Panthers in 2000 and has started 30 of 31 games played in the last two years. Last season, he led the Panthers with 52 receptions for 597 yards. He replaced Patrick Jeffers in the starting lineup after Jeffers suffered a season-ending knee injury` during the 2000 preseason and firmly established himself as a starter with 66 receptions for 926 yards and three touchdowns. He was originally drafted by the Panthers in the fourth round of the 1998 NFL draft, 106th overall, after completing his collegiate career at Wisconsin as the fifth ranked receiver in school history with 106 catches for 1,575 yards. He saw limited playing time in a reserve role in his first two seasons with the Panthers, but made the most of his one start versus Atlanta (11/28/99) when he led the team with five catches for 133 yards. He also scored his first career touchdown in the game on a 56-yard reception, the longest of his career.
Chris Hayes, 28, joins the Patriots after five seasons with the New York Jets, where he earned a reputation as one of the premier special teams performers in the league. The 6-foot, 206-pound safety was originally drafted by the New York Jets in the seventh round of the 1996 NFL draft out of Washington State. He was released by the Jets and spent part of his rookie season on the practice squads of the Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers. He finished the season on the Packers active roster and saw action in each of their playoff games, including Super Bowl XXXI against the Patriots. He was re-acquired by the Jets via a trade with Green Bay and made an immediate impact by leading the team with 25 special teams tackles in 1997. Since then, his 87 special teams tackles set a Jets franchise record (since 1987). While primarily used on special teams during his career, he also started eight games at safety in 2000 and finished that season with a career high 34 tackles and an interception.
Lyle, 31, has totaled 233 tackles (161 solos), including 10.5 sacks during his eight-year career. He has started in 73 of his 94 career games while with Cleveland (1994-95), Baltimore (1996) and the New York Jets (1997-2001). Last season, Lyle recorded the second-highest tackle total of his career, 46 (30 solos) while starting in two of the 16 regular season games. He also tied a career-high with three sacks in 2001. Lyle recorded a season-high seven tackles and two sacks vs. St. Louis (10/21/01). The 6-foot-5-inch, 280-pound defensive lineman originally signed with the Cleveland Browns as a rookie free agent (5/2/94) and recorded four tackles while playing in three games during his rookie season. He played in both of the Browns playoff games, including the Wild Card match-up against the Patriots. After missing the 1995 season on injured reserve, he played in 12 games, including seven starts for the Baltimore Ravens in 1996. He signed with the Jets as a free agent (3/24/97) and recorded 42 tackles, including a career-high three sacks, while starting at defensive end in all 16 games. He also started in all 16 games during both the 1998 and 1999 seasons totaling 86 tackles. In 2000, he started 14 games and recorded a career-high 48 tackles (40 solo). He played in 39 games during his collegiate career at Missouri and totaled 183 tackles (115 solos), including 18 sacks. He also earned All-America honors as a shot putter for the Tigers.
Dragos, 26, has played in 15 career games, including two starts during his three-year career and has recorded four receptions for 28 yards (7.0 avg.) and three special teams tackles. In 2001, Dragos played in six games with the Chicago Bears and recorded two special teams tackles before being waived (11/13/01). He was resigned (1/11/02) and listed among the Bears inactives during their divisional playoff game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The 6-foot-2-inch, 245-pound fullback/tight end was originally signed as a rookie free agent by the New England Patriots (4/24/98), but was waived during training camp (8/19/98). He was later signed onto the New York Giants practice squad (8/19/98). In 1999, he was allocated to the Barcelona Dragons of NFL Europe by the Giants and caught 12 passes for 158 yards (13.2 avg.) and three touchdowns. He was released by the Giants and signed onto the Bears practice squad (9/28/99). In 2000, Dragos played in nine games, including two starts, for the Bears and recorded four catches for 28 yards (7.0 avg.), including a pair of receptions vs. New England (12/10/00). Dragos earned All-America and all-state honors at Old Rochester Regional High and matriculated to Boston College where he played in 38 games and caught 46 passes during his college career.