Pees: Not seeking contract renewal

Patriots defensive coordinator Dean Pees, whose contract expires at the end of the month, will not return to the team, he announced Thursday. Pees had served as the team's coordinator since 2006.

Pees released this statement through the Patriots Thursday night:

"My contract with the New England Patriots will expire in a couple of weeks and I have informed Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick that I will not seek to renew it. I enjoyed my time in New England, but feel this is the right time to pursue other opportunities. I had the privilege of working with some great coaches and great players over the past six seasons and leave the Patriots with some wonderful memories that will last a lifetime. In addition to the players and coaching staff, I want to thank the Kraft family, the media and the fans for all of their support."

The Patriots ranked fifth in fewest points allowed in 2009, although the defense -- which was transitioning from a veteran unit to one with more youth -- struggled to close out games at times.

Pees initially joined the Patriots staff in 2004 after serving as head coach at Kent State from 1998 to 2003. He had spent his entire career in college prior to joining New England, serving as linebackers coach for two seasons before replacing Eric Mangini as coordinator.

Health could have been a factor in the decision. In the season finale at Houston, Pees left the game during the second half with shortness of breath and was admitted to the hospital. He checked out fine and flew home to New England the following day.

Pees, 60, underwent prostate cancer surgery last summer, and then battled a blood clot in his leg, according to the Boston Globe. He's reportedly now cancer-free, but has faced other medical scares.

"It's time for my wife and I to just sit back now, and not commit to anything," Pees told the Globe. "I want to be fair to New England because of how well the Patriots have treated me. I had some reservations, and to be fair to everyone, this had to be done."

As for a possible replacement, in-house candidates include linebackers coach Matt Patricia and defensive line coach Pepper Johnson.