FOXBOROUGH, Mass.- The New England Patriots announced that they have signed unrestricted free agent cornerback Otis Smith today. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Smith, 38, returns to New England for the third time in his 15-year NFL career. After being released by the Patriots last August 18, Smith signed with the Detroit Lions and appeared in every game in 2003, starting the final 13 games at cornerback. He was credited with 67 tackles, just three shy of the career highs he recorded in 1997 and 1998 for the New York Jets. Smith originally signed with the Patriots on Oct. 9, 1996 after being released by the Jets on Sept. 24 that season. He started six of the 11 games he appeared in for the Patriots that season and helped solidify the right cornerback position through the playoffs. His playoff contributions included a fumble recovery that he returned 47 yards for a touchdown in a 20-6 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC Championship game at Foxboro Stadium. He returned to the Patriots in 2000, after three seasons with the New York Jets. He became a fixture at right cornerback, starting 42 of 45 games over the next three seasons. In 2001, he led the Patriots with five interceptions for 181 yards, including two that he returned for touchdowns. His contributions helped the Patriots earn another conference championship and the first Super Bowl title in franchise history.
The 5-foot-11-inch, 198-pound cornerback out of Missouri originally signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a non-drafted rookie free agent in 1990. He spent four seasons with the Eagles, appearing in 62 games, including four as a starter. He saw action as a reserve and was among the team leaders each season in special teams tackles. He signed with the Jets as an unrestricted free agent and led the team with six interceptions, including a 49-yard return for a touchdown, while starting 10 of 11 games. After helping the Patriots claim a conference title in 1996, Smith returned to the Jets in 1997 and started the next 33 consecutive games. He established career highs in 1997 after logging 70 defensive tackles and leading the Jets once again with six interceptions for 158 yards and three touchdowns. He matched his career high with 70 stops again in 1998, adding another pair of interceptions.
In 14 NFL seasons, Smith now has 525 total tackles, including 5.5 sacks. He also has 29 career interceptions for 645 yards (22.2-yard avg.) and seven touchdowns. His seven career interceptions returned for touchdowns currently ranks sixth in NFL history, trailing only Rod Woodson (12), Ken Houston (9), Aeneas Williams (9), Deion Sanders (8), and Eric Allen (8). His 29 interceptions currently ranks 13th among active players, while his 645 career interception return yards ranks fifth.