Veteran wide receiver Troy Brown, whose sacrifice in serving double duty on defense for the New England Patriots in 2004 epitomized the selflessness of the Super Bowl champions, is returning to the team for a 13th season.
Brown signed a one-year contract on Monday. Financial details were not immediately available but the contract, which was agreed to last week, is believed to be worth more than the league minimum.
The 12-year veteran, who for years has been one of the premier slot receivers in the NFL, was avidly pursued by the New Orleans Saints in recent days.
Brown, 33, was released by the Pats earlier in the offseason for salary cap considerations and the move brought sharp criticism even from some of New England's staunchest fans. At the time, Brown was due a $2.5 million option bonus in early March and a base salary of $2.5 million. New England saved a considerable amount by releasing Brown and then signing him more than two months later, after he rebuffed overtures from several teams that sought to sign him as a free agent.
While there was little doubt that Brown wanted to return to the only franchise for which he has ever played, the intentions of the Patriots toward him were uncertain for a while. New England added a trio of younger wide receivers as free agents -- former Chicago first-round pick David Terrell, Tim Dwight and Jake Schifino -- and some observers felt those acquisitions might preclude Brown's return.
In the last few days, though, the Patriots ramped up negotiations. And, at a speech earlier this week, coach Bill Belichick specifically cited Brown as a player who personifies the kind of leadership that has driven the Pats to three Super Bowl titles in four years.
"I haven't been around a better leader in 30 years in the NFL than Troy Brown," the Pats' coach told his audience. "And he would never stand up in front of a room and [deliver] a speech. It's just not what he does. But he always comes in prepared and ready to help the team. Whatever I ask him to do, he does. Play defensive back. Return punts. Whatever. He'll do it for the good of the team, and that's a great leader."
A wide receiver and punt returner his entire career, Brown was pressed into duty in the New England secondary in 2004 because of injuries, playing principally as a nickel cornerback. He responded with 17 tackles, three interceptions and five passes defensed. By moving part-time to defense, Brown sacrificed the opportunity to reach some of the bonuses he might have earned playing exclusively as a wide receiver.
Originally an eighth-round choice in the 1993 draft, Brown has appeared in 162 games and has started in 57 of them. He has 475 receptions for 5,516 yards and 25 touchdowns. The former Marshall star has returned 237 punts for a 10.6-yard average and three scores and 87 kickoffs for an average of 21.4 yards. He also has 27 rushes for 160 yards.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.