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Report: Phifer to join Raiders

It appears the Patriots will lose starting outside linebacker Roman Phifer, who has agreed to a deal with Oakland, ccording to ESPN.com.

No terms for the deal were reported. A spokeswomen for Oakland said Phifer had not signed with the team. However, it looks like Phifer decided to stay on the west coast, where he can be closer to his family. The 11-year veteran spent several weeks deciding between signing with the Raiders or returning to New England, where he started all 16 games and posted 92 tackles in his only season with the team.

The Patriots wanted Phifer back, and it's easy to see why. He was the second-leading tackler behind Lawyer Milloy, and he teamed with Mike Vrabel and Tedy Bruschi to stabilize a linebacking corps hit hard by injuries.

Playing in New England worked for Phifer. The run to the Super Bowl title was his first trip to the postseason.

Losing Phifer could have a major impact on the Patriots draft plans. The team also lost Bryan Cox through free agency, and Andy Katzenmoyer was one of two players who, as of last week, had not contacted the coaching staff about his participation in the offseason workout program, leaving his future with the team clouded. New England does have regulars Bruschi, Vrabel and Ted Johnson returning, and newcomer Ryan Phillips in the fold. However, the depth at the linebacker spots was already questionable before Phifer's departure.

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