One week into free agency 2006 and the Patriots remain one of just six NFL teams yet to sign an unrestricted free agent. Maybe even more frustrating to Patriots fans, basically the only things the team has done to date this spring is purge the roster of past mistakes (Duane Starks, Chad Brown and Tyrone Poole) and re-sign lower roster depth players (Bam Childress, Artrell Hawkins, Hank Poteat, Don Davis and Ross Tucker).
Poole finally fell into the former category on Thursday after two literally forgetful seasons in which the 33-year-old played in just six total games. The 11th year veteran joined the Patriots as an unrestricted free agent in 2003 and after pondering retirement in training camp had a strong first season. He started all 16 games, recorded nine interceptions and even earned an All-Pro vote in helping New England to its second Super Bowl title in three years.
But Poole's dream-like career turnaround of '03 soon turned to injury-riddled nightmare a year later. The former first-round pick played in just five games in 2004, spending the bulk of the season as a game day inactive with a knee injury before going on injured reserve in December. The following season was even worse, as Poole sprained his ankle in the 2005 season opener against the Raiders, remained inactive through mid-October and was placed on injured reserve on Oct. 27.
Throughout the two injury-shortened seasons there were reported rumblings that the team was unhappy with Poole's attempts to return to the lineup, although neither the team nor the player really openly addressed any displeasures.
Poole had been scheduled to earn a $500,000 roster bonus this week. The release saves the team about $2 million against the 2006 salary cap.
Former Patriots defensive end Rodney Bailey returned to the Pittsburgh Steelers by reaching a one-year deal on Thursday. Bailey spent last season in Seattle. … Kicker Adam Vinatieri is in Green Bay visiting with the Packers, according to multiple published reports. … Free agent cornerback and former Steeler Deshea Townsend was in town for a visit with the Patriots on Thursday. … The team also reportedly hosted free agent wide receiver Reche Caldwell. Caldwell spent the last four seasons with the Chargers where he played in 47 games with 14 starts and recorded 76 receptions for 950 yards and seven touchdowns. Caldwell missed significant time to wrist and knee injuries in 2003 and 2004. … Bill Belichick has been in Florida this week, visiting colleges in the state, working out prospects and attending last night's Celtics game with the Heat in Miami. … The 2006 NFL Europe season kicks off this weekend. New England allocated seven players to Europe: tackle Jeff Roehl (Amsterdam), cornerback Antwain Spann (Rhein), guardNick Steitz (Rhein), running back Earl Charles (Hamburg), wide receiver Rich Musinski (Berlin), quarterback Todd Mortensen (Hamburg) and safety Ray Ventrone (Cologne). Ventrone will offer his experiences in a weekly diary on Patriots.com. In the first weekend of action Cologne visits Hamburg, Berlin travels to Amsterdam and Frankfurt heads to Rhein. All 31 NFL Europe games can be seen on TV in the US on NFL Network.