The Patriots had a couple of transactions today, but so far none of them involved Carolina Panthers pass rusher Julius Peppers. The team announced today that it had signed five players, including free agent offensive lineman Al Johnson.
The Patriots also made official the re-signing of nose tackle/defensive end Mike Wright, who received a four-year deal for about $7.5 million with playing time escalators that could increase the value of the deal by about $10 million, and announced that they had also re-signed offensive lineman Wesley Britt and safeties Ray Ventrone and Tank Williams.
The 30-year-old Johnson is a veteran of six NFL seasons with the Cowboys, Cardinals and Miami Dolphins. He suffered a knee injury with the Cardinals last year during training camp and was placed on injured reserve. However, he was released from injured reserve on Oct. 21 and signed by the Miami Dolphins on Nov. 29. He played in four games for Miami, seeing action at both center and guard.
Johnson, who spent his first four NFL seasons in Dallas, signed with Arizona in 2007 as a free agent and started all 14 games he played in that season at center for the Cardinals. A 2003 second-round pick of the Cowboys out of Wisconsin, Johnson has 45 career starts at center in 66 career NFL contests.
The Patriots decided to re-sign Williams after he missed all of last season with a knee injury he suffered in the second quarter of the Patriots first preseason game back on Aug. 7. Up until that time the team had been experimenting with Williams, who signed with the team as a free agent in March of 2008, as a linebacker in some of their sub packages that featured multiple defensive backs.
Williams, 28, has spent seven NFL seasons with the Tennessee Titans (2002-05), Minnesota Vikings (2006-07) and Patriots (2008). The 6-foot-2 , 223-pound safety has played in 70 career games, recording 303 career tackles (232 solo), 4.5 sacks, and 5 interceptions.
Wright, 27, has played in 54 games with seven starts for the Patriots, emerging as a valuable and versatile member of the defensive line since being signed as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Cincinnati following the 2005 draft.
Britt, 27, has played in 16 career games with two starts with the Patriots since joining the team as a free agent in 2006.
Ventrone, 26, was originally signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent April 28, 2005, out of Villanova. He played in 15 games last year, mostly on special teams.