Patriots sign OL Hochstein to extension

Versatile offensive lineman Russ Hochstein, who started the final seven games of the 2005 season at center for the New England Patriots, has signed a two-year contract extension, ESPN.com has learned.

A five-year veteran, Hochstein was entering the final season of his contract in 2006, and would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring without the extension. The two additional years are worth about $1.8 million and include a $400,000 signing bonus.

Hochstein, 28, will earn base salaries of $600,000 in 2007 and $730,000 in 2008 under the extension. His scheduled base salary for this season, of $600,000, is unchanged. He could earn an additional $800,000 in the extension part of the contract, based on a number of variables.

A former Nebraska standout, and a veteran who can play all three interior line positions, Hochstein took over at center in '05 when starter Dan Koppen suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in mid-November. The seven starts represented a career high.

In five seasons, the last four with the Patriots, Hochstein has appeared in 48 games and has eight starts. Of his regular-season appearances, 46 have been over the past three seasons. Hochstein has also played in six postseason contests, with three starts.

He started in the 2003 AFC championship game and in Super Bowl XXXVIII. In 2004, he started the AFC title game at tight end and played fullback in Super Bowl XXXIX, throwing a key block on tailback Corey Dillon's two-yard touchdown run.

Hochstein is typical of the New England offensive line contingent, a versatile and self-made player who has gotten the most from his skills under the tutelage of longtime offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. At 6-feet-4 and 305 pounds, he has sufficient size to play guard and is still quick enough to play the center spot. He likely will be a top backup at the guard and center positions in 2006.

Originally chosen by Tampa Bay in the fifth round of the 2001 draft, Hochstein spent much of his rookie season the Bucs' practice squad. He was signed to New England practice squad in 2002 after Tampa Bay released him.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.