Pats have seven days to match Sauerbrun's deal

Three-time Pro Bowl punter Todd Sauerbrun on Tuesday reached a one-year contract agreement with the Denver Broncos, the team that released him five months ago. But that doesn't mean that the controversial Sauerbrun, who played the final two games of the 2006 season with the New England Patriots, should start packing his bags.

Todd Sauerbrun Sauerbrun

Although he is a vested veteran with 12 years of NFL experience, Sauerbrun agreed to an individually negotiated right of first refusal with the Pats when he signed a one-year deal in late December. Translation: New England will have seven days, from the time the contract is officially filed with the NFL offices, to match it.

Such rights of first refusal, especially for such a longtime veteran, are uncommon. They are not, however, unheard of.

If the Patriots match the contract, they inherit its terms. Should they decline to match it, Sauerbrun will be permitted to rejoin the Broncos, for whom he punted in 2005.

Details of the agreement, first reported by the Boston Globe, were not yet available. It is not known, for instance, if the contract includes a poison pill stipulation that would make it more difficult to match. It is believed to feature a no-trade clause.

Sauerbrun, 34, has been one of the league's premier kickers but also a lightning rod for much of his career. He was among the former Carolina Panthers players alleged to have purchased supplements from a Columbia, S.C., doctor. Last summer, the NFL suspended Sauerbrun four games for a violation of the steroid abuse policy.

When he returned from his suspension, the Broncos released Sauerbrun and instead used second-year veteran Paul Ernster as their punter. Sauerbrun likely would vie with Ernster, who averaged 41.7 yards gross and 36.6 yards net in '06, for the No. 1 job in camp if he ends up with the Broncos for a second tour of duty.

After his release last October, Sauerbrun auditioned for several franchises, then signed with the Patriots, who has lost veteran punters Josh Miller (shoulder) and Ken Walter (foot) to injuries. He punted in two games for the Pats and also in the playoffs.

A former West Virginia University star, Sauerbrun has appeared in 164 games with Chicago (1995-99), Kansas City (2000), Carolina (2001-04), Denver (2005) and New England (2006). Sauerbrun's career gross average is 44.0 yards and his net average is 36.0 yards. He has 250 punts inside the 20-yard line and only 102 touchbacks.

Sauerbrun has also handled kickoff chores at various times in his career. His kickoff average is 62.0 yards and he has 60 touchbacks on 475 kickoffs.

Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.