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Thomas leads Patriots early free agent charge

As first reported by *The Boston Herald *late Friday, the New England Patriots have agreed to terms with free agent linebacker Adalius Thomas. The former Raven was one of the most sought after free agents on the market this year and is just now entering the prime of his career.

Thomas is coming off his most productive season that ended with a Pro Bowl berth. He finished second on the Ravens with 11 sacks and in the last two seasons has compiled 167 tackles, 20 sacks and three interceptions while playing both outside linebacker and defensive end. During his seven seasons in Baltimore, the versatile Thomas saw time at linebacker, end, tackle, and would even occasionally line up as a safety in the Ravens defense.

A former sixth round draft pick out of Southern Mississippi, Thomas played linebacker in college and was twice named the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year. After being drafted by the Ravens in 2001, Thomas' initial impact came on special teams. He tied for the team lead with 18 special teams tackles in his first year.

Thomas took a big step in 2002, starting 12 games at defensive end for the Ravens. His improvement continued the following year when he made the Pro Bowl as a special teamer after recording a career-high 23 tackles and blocking a punt.

In 2004, Thomas started 16 games for the first time in his career. He made the jump and became an integral part of the Ravens defense. While still playing on special teams, Thomas found time to rack up 80 tackles and eight sacks. The next two years he would turn into one of the best players on Baltimore's ferocious defense. In 2005, Thomas became the first Ravens player to score three defensive touchdowns in a season.

New England was in need of a playmaker at the linebacker position and Thomas certainly fits the bill. He'll start at outside linebacker, meaning Mike Vrabel could remain inside next to Tedy Bruschi. With his versatility, Thomas can also play some defensive end in New England's 3-4 scheme. Wherever he lines up, Thomas now becomes the most feared pass rusher on the Patriots roster.

The Patriots have made a huge splash already this offseason by signing Thomas and franchising cornerback Asante Samuel. There's no reason to believe that an already strong defense won't be even more formidable in 2007 with Thomas on board to terrorize opposing quarterbacks.

The team has also announced they have signed tight end Kyle Brady and running back Sammy Morris. Brady is almost like having an extra tackle on the field because of his ability as a run blocker. He should be a suitable replacement for Daniel Graham, who is expected to sign with another team in the coming days. Meanwhile, Morris adds depth to a backfield that recently lost Corey Dillon. He has the flexibility the Patriots like, contributing as a runner, blocker and pass catcher.

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