Patriots sign returner Leon Washington

The New England Patriots replaced Pro Bowl receiver Wes Welker on offense Wednesday by signing receiver Danny Amendola. But how would they replace Welker on punt returns?

New England answered that question Thursday by signing former Seattle Seahawks return specialist Leon Washington. This will be Washington's second tour of duty in the AFC East. He was drafted by the New York Jets in 2006 and spent four seasons there.

Washington had 1,140 kickoff and punt return yards and one touchdown last season with Seattle. He's had eight kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career.

New England's two primary punt returners last season -- Julian Edelman and Welker -- were unrestricted free agents. Welker signed with the Denver Broncos this week and Edelman remains on the open market. Defensive back Devin McCourty handled kickoff return duties for the Patriots out of necessity.

Washington fills Welker's role on punt returns and takes the pressure off McCourty, a starting safety, on kickoffs. This is an underrated and smart signing by the Patriots.