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Patriots sign TE Baxter, trade draft picks

The Patriots made two moves on Thursday, re-signing veteran tight end Fred Baxter and trading a third- and a fifth-round draft pick to the Redskins.

New England sent the first of its two fifth-round selections in this year's draft, a pick previously acquired from the Cowboys, to the Redskins in exchange for Washington's fourth-round selection in next year's draft. The teams exchanged third-round picks in the upcoming draft as part of the deal. Following the deal the Patriots now have two picks in each of the first, fourth and seventh rounds of the draft and single selections in the second, third, fifth and sixth rounds, totalling 10 picks in April's draft.

Baxter is a 10-year NFL veteran who originally signed with the Patriots on Dec. 24, 2002, to fill a roster spot left open when rookie tight end Daniel Graham was placed on injured reserve. He played in the final game of the season against the Dolphins as a reserve tight end and on special teams. The 6-2, 230-pounder has played in 122 career games with the Jets, Bears and Patriots with 100 receptions for 1,008 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Poole looks towards opportunity

While the team has yet to confirm the signing, Tyrone Poole's agent, Hadley Engelhard, acknowledged that his client had reached a four-year deal with the team. The deal has been reported as an $8 million contract with a $2 million signing bonus. Engelhard said that in the end his client was just most comfortable with the Patriots offer compared to the other teams that were interested.

"All the teams were competitive with offers," Engelhard said. "Tyrone was just comfortable with the money, the facilities and the chance to start and return punts with the Patriots."

Lyle, Cherry sign

In case you missed it, the Patriots re-signed veteran unrestricted free agents Rick Lyle and Je'Rod Cherry on Wednesday. The 32-year-old Lyle played in 13 games on the defensive line last season and totaled 20 tackles. The 6-5, 285-pound, nine-year veteran will help add veteran depth to a defensive line that could see an injection of youth and new faces next season, either through free agency or the draft.

The 6-1, 210-pound Cherry is seven-year NFL veteran who has been used primarily on special teams in his two seasons in New England. Last season he finished third on the team behind Larry Izzo and Matt Chatham with 12 special teams tackles.

Flurry of big-name signings

A number of the biggest names of this free agency period went off the market on Wednesday, including quarterback Jake Plummer, wide receiver David Boston and defensive tackle Daryl Gardener. The Denver Broncos made the biggest splash of the day, reaching deals with both Plummer and Gardener. Plummer is a former second round pick of the Cardinals and had spent the first six seasons of his up-and-down career in Arizona. He will take over the reigns of the Denver offense from Brian Griese. While Griese is still under contract with Denver, the team has given the player permission to seek a trade and he has likely played his last game as a Bronco.

Gardener, a seven-year veteran, was considered one of the top run-stopping defensive lineman available. The former Dolphins first round pick spent last season in Washington where he started all 15 games he played in and tallied 52 tackles and four sacks. Gardner spent the first six years of his career in Miami.

Boston, who many perceived to be one of the biggest catches in the market signed a long-term deal with the San Diego Chargers. Boston was injured for much of last year and caught just 32 passes for 512 yards, but had a monster season in 2001 with 98 receptions for 1,598 yards and seven scores.

Other notable signings on Wednesday included tight end Jim Kleinsasser with the Vikings, wide receiver Bobby Engram with the Seahawks, quarterbacks Rodney Peete and Jake Delhomme with the Panthers and defensive tackle Cletidus Hunt with the Packers.

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