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Patriots sign remaining 2003 draft class; waive three

Foxborough, Mass. - The New England Patriots announced the signing of eight players today, including the final seven rookies of their 2003 draft class.

Today's signings include first-round draft choice Ty Warren, cornerback Eugene Wilson, wide receiver Bethel Johnson, center Dan Koppen, quarterback Kliff Kingsbury, tight end Spencer Nead and linebacker Tully Banta-Cain.

The Patriots also signed exclusive rights free agent Matt Knutson. Terms of the signings were not disclosed.

Subsequently, the Patriots waived three rookies: guard Dave Petruziello, wide receiver Kerry Watkins and running back Derek Watson.

Warren, 22, was drafted by the Patriots with the 13th overall selection in the 2003 NFL draft. The 6-foot-5-inch, 307-pound defensive lineman joins the Patriots after starting 25 of 36 games at Texas A&M, where he recorded 144 career tackles, including 13.5 sacks and 20 quarterback pressures. As a senior, he started 10 games at defensive end and was credited with 52 tackles, including 4.5 sacks and 12 tackles for losses.

Wilson, 22, was selected in the second round of the 2003 NFL draft, the 36th player drafted overall. The 5-foot-10-inch, 192-pound cornerback joins the Patriots after starting 35 consecutive games at Illinois, where he accumulated 176 career tackles, 4 tackles for losses and 60 passes defensed, including 11 interceptions. He also handled punt return responsibilities for the Fighting Illini throughout his career. He set a school record with 896 yards and 2 touchdowns on 93 returns. Last year, he averaged 11.7 yards on 23 returns, including one he returned 70 yards for a touchdown. He also returned 18 career kickoffs and posted a 18.8-yard average.

Johnson, 24, was selected by the Patriots with their second selection in the second round, the 45th selection overall. The 5-foot-11-inch, 201-pound wide out set school records with 117 receptions for 1,740 yards while starting 22 of 35 games played at Texas A&M. He also scored 11 touchdowns, tied for fourth in school history. He averaged 13.0 yards on 15 punt returns and 20.0 yards on 22 kickoff returns during his career. Last year, he started all 12 games for the Aggies and led the team with 40 receptions for 718 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Koppen, 23, was drafted by the Patriots in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL draft, the 164th selection overall. The 6-foot-2-inch, 297-pound center was a three-year starter at Boston College. As a senior, he was named a finalist for the Rimington Award, presented annually to the nation's premier center.

Kingsbury, 23, was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2003 NFL draft, the 201st selection overall. The 6-foot-3-inch, 213-pound quarterback set 39 school records, 13 Big Twelve records and seven Division I passing records while at Texas Tech. He started 38 of 43 games and completed 1,231 of 1,883 attempts for 12,429 yards and 95 touchdowns. Last year, he earned academic All-American honors and was named the conference's Offensive Player of the Year. He shattered his own single-season passing records by completing 479 of 712 attempts for 5,017 yards and 45 touchdowns.

Nead, 25, was the first of three seventh-round selections by the Patriots in the 2003 NFL draft. He was the 234th overall selection. The 6-foot-4-inch, 259-pound tight end played two seasons at Brigham Young, where he started 18 of 25 games and gained 715 yards and 6 touchdowns on 62 receptions. Last year, he started all 12 games for the Cougars and was credited with 40 receptions for 449 yards and a touchdown.

Banta-Cain, 22, was drafted by the Patriots with their second of three seventh-round selections in the 2003 NFL draft. He was the 239th player drafted overall. The 6-foot-2-inch, 254-pound linebacker joins the Patriots after starting 33 of 39 games at California and recorded 112 career tackles, including 26.5 sacks and 52 tackles for losses. Last year, he earned all-conference honors after registering 39 tackles, including 13 sacks and 22 tackles for losses.

Knutson, 24, was originally signed by the Patriots off the New York Jets practice squad on Dec. 24, 2002. The 6-foot-7-inch, 315-pound offensive lineman signed with the Jets as a non-drafted rookie free agent on April 26, 2002. The North Dakota product was released by the Jets on Aug. 26 and spent most of his rookie season on the practice squads for the Patriots and New York Jets.

Petruziello, Watkins and Watson each signed with the Patriots as rookie free agents in May.

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