Sun, Mar 07, 2004 - Page 23 News List

New England players continue to get syphoned off


The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots lost another starter on Friday when Damien Woody, one of the most sought-after free-agent offensive linemen, agreed to join the Detroit Lions.

Woody was the second defector to leave New England as a free agent -- nose tackle Ted Washington went to Oakland on Wednesday, the opening day of the signing period. Woody and former Buffalo cornerback Antoine Winfield, who signed with Minnesota after backing out of an agreement with the New York Jets, were the two major signings on Friday.

"I want to keep winning, keep being successful," Woody said as he was introduced in Detroit.

Still, the signing isn't likely to change New England's philosophy which, in the words of owner Robert Kraft, is "to upgrade the bottom of your portfolio" as well as the top.

Woody, New England's starting left guard, missed both the AFC title game and the Super Bowl with a knee injury and last week, New England re-signed guard Russ Hochstein, who filled in adequately for him.

Woody's acquisition was the second in 12 hours for the Lions, who acquired Jacksonville cornerback Fernando Bryant on Thursday. But Detroit is in a different position than New England: trying to upgrade its roster after going 10-38 the past three seasons.

There also was one trade, Tennessee sending wide receiver Justin McCareins to the New York Jets for a second-round draft pick.

But overall it was quieter Friday than in the first two days of free agency, primarily because Washington finally slowed down after spending nearly US$50 million of Daniel Snyder's money in bonuses alone.

The Redskins were ecstatic about the players they picked up, although big spending hasn't worked for Snyder in the past and there are questions about several of their acquisitions: Aging quarterback Mark Brunell, underachieving defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and injury-prone cornerback Shawn Springs.

Their last acquisition, former Indianapolis linebacker Marcus Washington, got a US$7 million signing bonus.

He replaces Jessie Armstead, who was released last week.

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