Gaffney, 25, worked out for New England coaches and personnel officials on Friday, along with veteran free agent wide receivers Kevin Johnson and Charles Rogers, and was deemed to be the best of the trio.
"We really have four receivers on the team," coach Bill
Belichick said. "I think that's a little on the light side."
Gaffney will have extra time to prepare for the next game thanks to a bye this
"We'll take a look at him," Belichick said. "He's had some
production in the league. We have a couple of weeks here to work on
To create a roster spot for Gaffney, the Patriots released defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan, who had not dressed for any of the team's five regular-season five games this season.
"It just didn't work out," Belichick said. "We have a couple
of players ahead of him."
The club also released veteran defensive back Hank Poteat, who has been on and off the roster several times the past three seasons, and was re-signed two weeks ago.
"He really didn't play very much," Belichick said. "Guys who
leave the team could come back to it, so we'll see what happens."
New England has been playing with just four wide receivers and has been attempting to upgrade the position. The Pats lost both starters from 2005, as David Givens signed with the Tennessee Titans and Deion Branch was traded to the Seattle Seahawks last month.
Givens signed with the Titans as an unrestricted free agent, and Branch was dealt after a lengthy contract dispute in which the former Super Bowl MVP failed to report to camp.
Gaffney is a solid possession-type receiver with good hands and quickness, and he should be a good fit in the New England offensive design.
The former Florida standout, a second-round choice in the 2002 draft, has 171 receptions for 2,009 yards and seven touchdowns in his career. Gaffney has played in 64 games and started in 50 of them. He enjoyed his best overall season in 2005, posting 55 catches for 492 yards and two touchdowns.
In June, Gaffney was arrested following a traffic stop in New
Jersey for unlawful possession of a handgun. Gaffney was registered
to carry the weapon in Texas, but not New Jersey. His attorney said
Gaffney would apply for a first-time offenders' program in which
the charges would eventually be dismissed, but the outcome of the
case was not immediately known Monday.
Gaffney's ontract details were also not immediately available.
New England's wide receivers have just 41 catches for 466 yards and five touchdowns in five outings this year. The lone holdover wide receiver from the 2005 roster is 14-year veteran Troy Brown.
While the addition of Gaffney is key for the Patriots, the release of Sullivan might be even bigger news league-wide.
The former Georgia star was the first-round choice of the New Orleans Saints in 2003, the sixth player selected overall that year. But his weight and lack of motivation were problems in New Orleans and the Saints dealt him to the Patriots this spring for wide receiver Bethel Johnson.
Now, two teams have now given up on Sullivan, 25, in four months. Because he plays a position that is difficult to fill, Sullivan may draw some interest. But other teams will be wary, given that the Patriots and coach Bill Belichick were unable to get him to play to his potential, and will be skeptical about signing him.
In 36 appearances, including 17 starts, Sullivan has 102 tackles and 1½ sacks. A dominant player at the college level, Sullivan has yet to transfer his abilities to the NFL.
Poteat, 28, is a journeyman defensive back to whom New England seems to often turn when injuries deplete their secondary. In stints with Pittsburgh (2000-2002), Tampa Bay (2003) and New England (2004-2006), Poteat has appeared in 54 games. The six-year veteran appeared in two games, with one start, for New England this season.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here. The Associated Press contributed to this report.