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New England Patriots: 5 Players Who Found New Life With the Team

New England Patriots: 5 Players Who Found New Life With the Team

New England Patriots: 5 Players Who Found New Life With the Team

Cam Newton's signing with the New England Patriots is one of the most exciting quarterback moves in an offseason full of such transactions. One can only begin to imagine what Bill Belichick will do with one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history who led the Carolina Panthers to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance in 2015.

There are concerns, as Newton has struggled with injuries the past two seasons. However, Belichick has had a knack for breathing new life into the careers of many players. For some, like running back Steven Jackson, who went unsigned in 2015 until Belichick picked him up in December for short-yardage situations, it can last less than a season. For others, signing with the Patriots recharged their career. Here are the five most memorable times that happened.

5. Rob Ninkovich — Free Agency (2009)

The outside linebacker had only played in seven games in three seasons with the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins before signing as a free agent with the Patriots right before the 2009 preseason. He played in all but one game from 2009-15 and recorded 46 sacks, 14 fumble recoveries, and five interceptions during his eight seasons in New England.

4. Randy Moss — Trade with Oakland Raiders (2007)

Moss was very unhappy in Oakland, but his low output with the Raiders had few teams beating down the door to acquire the future Hall of Fame receiver. The Patriots were able to get him by trading a 2007 fourth-round pick to Oakland. The move turned out to be a steal, as Moss caught an NFL-record 23 touchdown passes during New England's undefeated regular season. He would go on to score 50 of his 156 career touchdowns in his four seasons with the Patriots.

3. Mike Vrabel — Free Agency (2001)

Vrabel had four undistinguished seasons at outside linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers before signing with the Patriots. He became a mainstay on defense in New England's run of four Super Bowls appearances — and three rings ⁠— in seven seasons. The versatile Vrabel played both inside and outside linebacker and on offense in goal-line situations, catching 10 touchdown passes during his career.

2. Wes Welker — Trade with Miami Dolphins (2007)

After going undrafted, Welker was cut by the San Diego Chargers before signing with the Dolphins. In 2006, he had a team-best 67 catches, with nine of them coming in one game against New England. The Patriots liked what they saw and ponied up their second- and seventh-round picks to acquire the restricted free agent from Miami. Welker became a favorite target/safety valve for Tom Brady and caught more than 110 passes in five of his six seasons in New England.

1. Rodney Harrison — Free Agency (2003)

Harrison made the Pro Bowl twice with the San Diego Chargers but was released after the 2002 season. He signed with New England and was named first-team All-Pro at safety as the Patriots won its first of back-to-back Super Bowls. Harrison stayed in New England for six seasons, and Belichick said he was one of the best players that he ever coached.

— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.