| ||Thursday, February 10|
|FOXBORO, Mass. -- The New England Patriots used some of the money they saved by waiving Pro Bowl tight end Ben Coates and offensive lineman Bruce Armstrong to sign Lawyer Milloy to a long-term contract Thursday that makes him the highest-paid safety in the NFL.
"I know this is a big commitment by the organization to Lawyer and I think it's one that's deserving," coach Bill Belichick said. "You just can't do it for everybody. That's just the way it's set up. But he's one that I want to commit to."
To make room for Milloy and four other unrestricted free agents, the Patriots on Thursday released Armstrong, a six-time Pro Bowl selection who had refused to take a pay cut. The announcements came one day after the they released Coates, a five-time Pro Bowl selection, who complained about his diminishing role during the season and also refused to take a salary cut.
"I have a lot of respect for Ben. He was a crucial part of this team," Milloy said. "I understand this was a business. It's not up to me to keep players or let players go.
"I know Ben. He'll be all right wherever he lands."
But the Patriots also have to worry about signing four more potential free agents -- cornerback Steve Israel, linebacker Tedy Bruschi and wide receivers Shawn Jefferson and Troy Brown -- as well as restricted free agents and their draft choices. The team does not have a first-rounder this year because it was given to the New York Jets as compensation for Belichick.
Giving Milloy his money makes it more difficult for the others to get theirs.
"There's a couple of free agents we need to sign, especially on the offensive side. I hope they're happy for me because of what I've meant to the team," Milloy said. "I'll back them also in their (negotiation) process. This is a business."
Milloy led the team with 173 tackles last season. He also had four interceptions, two sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
By signing Milloy, the Patriots avoided labeling him their franchise player, a move that would have allowed them to keep him for the average salary of the five highest-paid players in the league. But Milloy had said he would sit out the year rather than play under the franchise designation.
Asked if his new deal put more responsibility on him to be a team leader, he said, "I don't think I can become more of a leader."
"You look at my stats. If I try to do more, I don't think I would last," he said. "The money -- I'm not going to worry about that. I'm just going to try to go out there and try to win football games."
And what about the pressure of being the highest-paid safety in the game?
"I won't ever feel any pressure as long as (cornerback) Ty Law's making $50 million," Milloy said.