FOXBORO, Mass. – The New England Patriots announced the signing of their two-time all-pro strong safety Lawyer Milloy to a seven-year contract today. His $35 million deal includes a six million dollar signing bonus, which makes Milloy the highest paid safety in the NFL. He is the second potential free agent to re-sign with the Patriots before becoming an unrestricted free agent tomorrow. Ty Law, who would have been eligible for free agency this offseason, was re-signed by the Patriots during training camp on Aug. 20, 1999.
"As a player who came into the league four years ago, I had the privilege to coach him in 1996 and we had a great year going to the Super Bowl," said head coach Bill Belichick. "He plays the game the way I believe it should be played. He has great passion and love for football. I know this is a big commitment by the organization to Lawyer and it's one I think is very deserving."
Milloy, 26, recorded career highs with 173 total tackles, 112 solo stops, 61 assists and three forced fumbles last year to earn Associated Press All-Pro honors for the second consecutive season. He is the first safety in franchise history to be voted to multiple Pro Bowls. His 173 total tackles were the most by a Patriot since Steve Nelson totaled 207 tackles in 1984. Named a defensive co-captain before the start of the season, Milloy recorded double-digit tackle totals in 10 games, including a season-high 16 stops on two occasions. He set a new single-game person best when he recorded 12 solo tackles (16 total) in a victory over Baltimore in the season finale, which included his second sack of the season. The Patriots defense was ranked eighth overall in the league and seventh against the pass, the highest ranking by a Patriots defense in over 10 years.
In four seasons, Milloy has totaled 521 tackles, including 349 solo hits and four sacks. His 15 interceptions already ranks 16th in franchise history and is just five shy of moving into the team's top 10 all-time.
He was originally drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 1996 NFL draft (36th overall). He made his starting debut for the Patriots in the seventh game of his rookie season at Indianapolis (10/20/96) and has started 58 consecutive games since. Despite starting just 10 games as a rookie, he still ranked third on the team with 85 tackles and helped propel the Patriots to their first division title in 10 years and just their second conference title in franchise history. His performance earned him all-rookie honors by Pro Football Weekly, Football News and College & Pro Football Newsweekly.
In 1997, Milloy recorded 112 total tackles and intercepted three passes. Both totals ranked second on the team. The Patriots finished 10-6 to win consecutive division titles for the first time in franchise history. With 112 tackles, he became the first Patriot defensive back to record over 100 tackles since Fred Marion posted 119 in 1990.
In 1998, he led the team with 151 total tackles, including 100 solo stops, and recorded a career-high six interceptions. His performance earned him his first selection to the Pro Bowl. He became the first Patriot safety to be voted to the Pro Bowl since Fred Marion in 1985.