FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots moved on several of their restricted free agents Tuesday, offering contract tenders to offensive tackle Tom Ashworth, wide receiver David Givens, defensive end Jarvis Green and guard Stephen Neal, according to published reports. Although the team made no official comment, the players were reportedly offered mid-level tenders worth $1.43 million that could help the Patriots retain their services in the free agent market that opened Wednesday.
Another of the Patriots restricted free agents, right tackle Brandon Gorin, has agreed to a three-year contract extension, according to a report published by ESPN.com.
Each of the Patriots four restricted free agents are free to negotiate with any team, but the Patriots have the right to match any offer. Once an offer sheet is signed, the Patriots would have one week to match. If the Patriots decline to match an offer sheet, they will receive a first-round draft pick as compensation because of the mid-level tenders offered. Under NFL free agency rules, restricted free agents have 60 days - until April 15 - in which to negotiate with other teams. At that point a restricted free agent's rights revert back to his original team.
Each of the players who received a contract tender is within the core group of younger players who helped the Patriots win back-to-back Super Bowls in 2003 and 2004. Ashworth, 27, became the starter at right tackle in 2003 and maintained his starting spot this season until a back injury ended his season. Givens, 24, started 12 of his 15 games this season and led the team in receptions (56) and receiving yards (874), both career-highs. Green, 26, played in all 16 games for the second consecutive season, posting career-highs in tackles (28) and sacks (4) as key part of the defensive line rotation. Neal, 28, emerged as the starter at right guard in Week 4 and started the final 14 games, along with all three playoff contests.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com is reporting that Gorin, 26, reached an agreement on a contract worth at least $2.5 million that could be worth as much as $5.1 million if he retains his starting position. The fourth-year player made his first NFL start this season in Week 8 against Pittsburgh after a back injury forced Ashworth to the injured reserve. Gorin started the final 10 games of the season and all three playoff contests for the Patriots.
Gorin, who was a seventh-round draft pick by San Diego in 2001, was scheduled to be a restricted free agent before reaching the extension. The Patriots would have also had to tender a contract offer to Gorin in order to retain the right refusal in free agency.