New England continued its busy offseason by agreeing to terms with wide receiver Donte' Stallworth on a detailed six-year contract that could be worth as much as $33.1 million or as little as $3.6 million for one season.
The complex nature of the contract reflects the fact that Stallworth is currently in the NFL substance abuse program, according to a report by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Another violation of the program could result in a suspension.
"We considered a number of other opportunities for Donte," agent Drew Rosenhaus said. "This was a terrific opportunity to play with Tom Brady and a Patriots team that looks like a behemoth right now with all the moves they’ve made coming off the playoffs."
The deal is also reflective of how difficult a time the Patriots had replacing departed receivers Deion Branch and David Givens last season. Stallworth is the second receiver the Patriots have acquired this offseason, following a trade the team made for former Dolphins receiver/return man Wes Welker. Welker, who the Patriots gave up second- and seventh-round picks to get, signed a five-year, $18 million contract upon joining the Patriots.
Stallworth is the fifth player overall that the Patriots have acquired this offseason after losing to Indianapolis in the AFC championship game. Earlier in free agency, New England added prized linebacker Adalius Thomas.
To get Stallworth, the Patriots agreed to pay him a $1 million signing bonus, a $300,000 workout bonus, $700,000 base salary and a $1.6 million roster bonus if Stallworth makes the 53-man roster. He has another $400,000 in incentives.
In 2008, the Patriots will have to decide on whether to give Stallworth a $6 million option bonus. If so, Stallworth would receive another $2 million roster bonus on the first day of the league year in March of that year, $400,000 workout bonus, $1 million base salary and a $1.6 million bonus for making the 53-man roster. That’s a total of $11 million that Stallworth could earn in the second year of the deal.
From there, Stallworth can earn another $18.5 million over the final four years of the contract in a similar combination of bonuses and base salary.
The Patriots featured a revolving door at wide receiver last season. They had four players with at least 40 receptions, led by Reche Caldwell with 61. However, the team didn’t have a consistent deep threat. They acquired Doug Gabriel in training camp for that role, but cut him late in the season. The Patriots also recently lost No. 2 tight end Daniel Graham in free agency.
Stallworth is considered an excellent deep threat. He caught 38 passes for 725 yards and five touchdowns last season with Philadelphia. He was a first-round pick by New Orleans in 2002 and was traded to the Eagles in training camp last season.
Welker gives the Patriots a possession receiver who is good at working the middle of the field despite being only 5-foot-9. However, there is ample irony to the moves by the Patriots at wide receiver.
The moves come less than a year after the Patriots battled Branch in contract negotiations and let Givens go in free agency. Branch held out during training camp and was eventually traded to Seattle for a first-round pick. Branch, who was a favorite of Brady, received a six-year, $39 million contract.
Stallworth received contract offers from Tennessee, Miami and Philadelphia and received some interest from San Francisco.