New England has reached a deal with another tight end, this time agreeing to a one-year contract with Cam Cleeland, according to the Providence Journal.
The Patriots could not confirm any deal late Monday, but the contract is reportedly worth $525,000 with incentives that could push the total closer to $1 million. If the deal is finalized, the 6-4, 272-pound Cleeland will bring more competition to a position New England has obviously made a priority this offseason.
After getting a combined 19 catches and four touchdowns from Rod Rutledge and Jermaine Wiggins last season, the Patriots have already signed former Seattle tight end Christian Fauria. Wiggins is still with the team, as are 2001 draft picks Jabari Holloway and Arther Love, neither of whom saw the field as rookies. Rutledge is an unrestricted free agent who isn't expected to return.
Cleelend is probably the most talented of the bunch when playing, which has not been often. After a strong rookie season in 1998 in which he played every game and caught 54 passes for 684 yards and six touchdowns, injuries have limited him to 20 games, 39 catches and five touchdowns in three years since. He missed all of the 2000 season and has had three serious injuries to his Achilles tendon, among other injuries.
If the offseason focus on tight ends is any indication, the Patriots have questions about whether their young players can handle the position. Of course, searching for answers at tight end is nothing new. In the last three seasons, the team has signed free agents Fauria, Eric Bjornson and Johnny McWilliams, claimed Wiggins off waivers from the Jets and drafted Dave Stachelski, Holloway and Love. They also had a rookie free agent, Harvard's Chris Eitzmann, work his way off the practice squad into game action in 2000.