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Stallworth could stretch the field

On Tuesday, Mar. 13, the Patriots continued their aggressive approach to free agency by signing wideout Donte' Stallworth. Now that the ink on the deal has dried, Stallworth will be joining his third team in as many years, and quarterback Tom Brady could be getting the deep threat he needs to stretch the field.

Stallworth's yards-per-catch average last season was 19.1 yards, distributed over 38 receptions. Over his five-year career, spent with the Eagles and Saints, Stallworth has posted an average of 15.1 yards per catch.

Last season, Brady's best long-ball target was tight end Benjamin Watson, who posted an average of 13.1 yards per reception. But the addition of Stallworth could mean stretching the field more on the sidelines, something the team had trouble doing in '06 afterDeion Branch held himself out of training camp long enough to force a trade with Seattle. With second-rounder Chad Jackson hampered by injuries (the most recent being a torn ACL) and Doug Gabriel released after being brought in from Oakland, the Patriots never found an answer to the void created by Branch's departure.

The 6-foot, 296-pound Stallworth could be that answer.

A former first-rounder out of Tennessee, Stallworth is one of three free agent receivers grabbed up by the Patriots in just over a week. Wes Welker, who led the Dolphins last season with a career-high 67 passes for 687 yards and a touchdown, is a good possession receiver who's most comfortable working out of the slot position. Troy Brown has handled most of this work as of late, but the 14-year veteran and current free agent is still on the fence about returning in '07.

The Patriots most recent acquisition is an even more physically intimidating presence than Stallworth. Kelley Washington spent the last four seasons at Cincinnati, waiting to emerge from under a list of names that includes some of the most dangerous receivers in the league. At 6-3, 218-pounds, Washington instantly becomes the Patriots biggest wide receiver. He doesn't have the speed that Stallworth brings, and he was sidelined last season with hamstring injuries, but his size could be enough to complicate things for opposing defenses.

The impact of these three additions to a receiving corps that already includes Reche Caldwell, Jabar Gaffney, Kelvin Kight, Bam Childress, Jackson and Jonathan Smith will undoubtedly mean tougher battles at Training Camp, and could translate into a seriously improved passing attack.

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