FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots have signed veteran offensive lineman Al Johnson and re-signed offensive lineman Wesley Britt, safety Ray Ventrone, safety Tank Williamsand defensive lineman Mike Wright. Terms of the agreements were not disclosed.
Al Johnson, 30, is a veteran of six NFL seasons with the Dallas Cowboys (2003-06), Arizona Cardinals (2007) and Miami Dolphins (2008). The 6-foot-5-inch, 305-pound offensive lineman has played in 66 career games with 45 starts at center. From 2004-05, he started 31 straight games at center for the Cowboys. The Brussels, Wisc. native was originally selected by the Cowboys in the second round (38th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft out of Wisconsin. In his rookie season, he began training camp as the Cowboys' first-string center, but was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury on Aug. 26, 2003, and missed his rookie season due to injury. He returned in 2004 to play in every game with 15 starts at center for Dallas. In 2005, he started every game at center for the Cowboys. He appeared in all 16 games as a reserve in 2006. Johnson was signed by the Cardinals as an unrestricted free agent on March 5, 2007. In his lone season in Arizona, Johnson started 14 games at center as part of an offensive line that allowed the franchise's fewest number of sacks (24) in 20 years and helped pave the way for Edgerrin James to rush for 1,222 yards. Last season, Johnson was placed on injured reserve by the Cardinals with a knee injury and was released from injured reserve on Oct. 21, 2008. He was signed by the Dolphins as a free agent on Nov. 29, 2008 and played in four games for Miami last season, seeing reserve action at both guard and center.
Wesley Britt, 27, has played in 16 career games with two starts, all with the Patriots from 2006-2008. The 6-foot-8-inch, 320-pound offensive tackle was originally drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the fifth round (164th overall) of the 2005 NFL Draft out of Alabama. Britt was released by the Chargers on Sept. 4, 2005 and was signed to the Patriots' practice squad the following day. He spent the entire 2005 season on New England's practice squad and was signed to the Patriots' active roster on Jan. 30, 2006. He played in 10 games for New England as a first-year player in 2006 and earned his first career start at right tackle at Cincinnati on Oct. 1 of that season. In 2007, Britt played in four games while being listed among the day-of-game inactives on 12 occasions. He made one start in 2007, opening as a second tight end in New England's regular season finale against the New York Giants on Dec. 29. In 2008, Britt saw action as a reserve in two games while being listed as a gameday inactive 14 times.
Ray Ventrone, 26, was originally signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent on April 28, 2005. He has played in 17 regular-season games and two playoff contests in his career and has recorded six special teams tackles. Last season, he played in the first 15 games of the season, appearing primarily on special teams. The 5-foot-10-inch, 200-pound defensive back spent the 2005 season as a member of New England's practice squad. After spending the 2006 season on injured reserve, Ventrone was signed by the New York Jets on Feb. 21, 2007. He was released by the Jets in the final preseason roster cuts on Sept. 2, 2007 and was signed to New York's practice squad two days later. Ventrone was released from the Jets practice squad on Sept. 12, 2007. He was signed to the Patriots practice squad on Sept. 19 and was signed to the active roster on Nov. 3. Ventrone made his NFL debut in the Patriots' 24-20 win at Indianapolis on Nov. 4. He was released on Nov. 7 and re-signed to the practice squad on Nov. 9. He was re-signed to the Patriots' active roster on Dec. 22, 2007 and played in the Patriots' regular-season finale against the New York Giants on Dec. 29. He also saw action in the 2007 AFC Championship Game against San Diego on Jan. 20, 2008 and in Super Bowl XLII against the New York Giants on Feb. 3, 2008. He recorded his first career special teams tackle in Super Bowl XLII.
Tank Williams, 28, is a veteran of seven NFL seasons with the Tennessee Titans (2002-05), Minnesota Vikings (2006-07) and New England Patriots (2008). The 6-foot-2-inch, 223-pound safety has played in 70 career games with 59 starts and has recorded 303 career tackles (232 solo), 4.5 sacks, five interceptions for 14 yards, 27 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He has also blocked two field goals. Williams was signed by the Patriots as a free agent on March 6, 2008. He suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Patriots' first 2008 preseason game and spent the 2008 season on injured reserve.
In 2007 with Minnesota, Williams played in 13 games with two starts and had 18 tackles (12 solo) on defense and added seven special teams stops. Williams missed the entire 2006 season with a knee injury after signing with the Vikings as an unrestricted free agent on March 23, 2006.
Williams was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the second round (45th overall) of the 2002 NFL Draft out of Stanford. He spent the first four years of his career in Tennessee, starting all 57 games in which he appeared over that span, recording 285 tackles (220 solo), 4.5 sacks and five interceptions. As a rookie in 2002, Williams started every game for the Titans and totaled 69 tackles, posting at least five tackles in a game eight times, and recording an interception, 10 passes defensed and adding a strip-sack that resulted in a fumble return for a touchdown against Indianapolis. He also blocked a field goal in the 2002 regular season finale. In 2003, Williams once again started every game and finished fourth on the Titans with 81 tackles, helping Tennessee lead the NFL in rushing defense. He started the first nine games of the 2004 season, but was placed on the reserve/injured list on Nov. 29 with a knee injury and missed the remainder of the year. He returned in 2005 to start every game for the Titans and led all Tennessee defensive backs with a career-high 83 tackles.
Mike Wright, 27, has played in 54 games with seven starts for the Patriots since being signed as an undrafted rookie free agent from the University of Cincinnati on April 29, 2005. The 6-foot-4-inch, 295-pound defensive lineman will enter his fifth season with the Patriots in 2009. Over his first four NFL seasons, Wright has recorded 108 tackles (68 solo), four sacks for 42 yards, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and nine special teams tackles. Last season, Wright played in every game and started twice at defensive end in place of an injured Ty Warren. In 2008, Wright recorded a career-high 2.5 sacks while totaling 33 tackles (17 solo) and two fumble recoveries. Wright had two strip-sacks of opposing quarterbacks in 2008.
As a rookie in 2005, Wright played in 13 regular-season games and recorded 16 tackles (10 solo). He suffered an injury in the regular-season finale and was placed on injured reserve for the 2005 playoffs. In 2006, Wright played in every game and made a career-high four starts and had a career-best 47 tackles (32 solo), one sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He started the final three games of the 2006 regular season at nose tackle in place of an injured Vince Wilfork, and led the team with a career-high 12 tackles in the Patriots' 40-23 victory at Tennessee on December 31, 2006. In 2007, Wright played in nine games with one start and made 12 tackles (9 solo) before being placed on injured reserve on December 13, 2007.