Aiken quietly fills Paxton void

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
8:00
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The long snapper position is one in which the less you hear about it, the better it is going.

In that case, it's been so far, so good for Patriots rookie Danny Aiken.

The Patriots figured they had the snapper spot settled for the long-term with Lonie Paxton, one of the best in the business who first joined the team in 2000 and made snow angels in New England famous. But when former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was hired as Broncos head coach in 2009, he made Paxton, then a free agent, the NFL's highest-paid long snapper by taking the bidding to a level the Patriots weren't comfortable matching (5 years, $5.38 million).

So the Patriots turned to the draft that year and picked Jake Ingram in the sixth round. The hope was that Ingram would be the long-term replacement, and while he snapped throughout 2009, he fell into a slump that he couldn't snap out of (in 2010).

That led the Patriots to Matt Katula, a veteran who was brought in halfway through 2010 to replace Ingram. Katula finished out the '10 season but was cut in the 2011 preseason.

Veteran James Dearth then joined the Patriots for one 2011 preseason game before the Patriots cut him and claimed Aiken -- a rookie from Virginia -- on waivers from the Bills. To this point, Aiken has remained relatively anonymous, which means he's getting the job done.

"Danny has done a nice job," director of player personnel Nick Caserio said. "Smart guy, works hard and he has a good rapport between he and Zoltan [Mesko] and Stephen [Gostkowski]. The relationship among the specialists is important not only on the field but off the field as well. We’re happy that we have him."

In claiming Aiken, the Patriots inherited his contract, which runs through the 2013 season. That means their specialists are all under contract for multiple years.

Aiken -- 2013
Gostkowski -- 2014
Mesko -- 2013

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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