The Patriots have been very aggressive in pursuing players right after they played for a divisional rival, with Tim Tebow being the latest example.
Here’s a look at five other prominent players who signed to play for the Bill Belichick-led Patriots immediately after being a member of a division rival. It’s a list that Tim Tebow will be trying to join in whatever role he serves the 2013 team.
Otis Smith (2000, previously with Jets)
Smith jumped from the Jets to the Patriots along with Belichick in the latter’s first season as head coach. The cornerback won a Super Bowl in 2001, making 42 of a possible 48 starts from 2000 to 2002. His best season was in 2001, when he had five interceptions (including two for touchdowns) and 19 pass deflections.
Smith also had an interception that set up a field goal in the third quarter against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.
Antowain Smith (2001, previously with Bills)
Smith rushed for 1,157 yards in 2001, his first season with the Patriots. Smith played a key role in New England’s first two Super Bowl wins, gaining 175 yards and a touchdown in the two games. Smith scored 21 touchdowns over his three-year Patriots career before finishing with the Titans and Saints.
Wes Welker (2007, previously with Dolphins)
This was the best previous example of Belichick plucking a rival and turning him into a star. In six seasons with the Patriots, Welker averaged 102 catches and six touchdowns as the ultimate target for Tom Brady before bolting this offseason for the Denver Broncos.
Rob Ninkovich (2009, previously with Dolphins)
Ninkovich morphed into a starter after not starting with the Saints and Dolphins from 2006 to 2008. He’s had his best two seasons the last two seasons, combining for 14 ½ sacks and seven fumble recoveries in 31 starts.
Danny Woodhead (2010, previously with Jets)
After being cut by the Jets at the start of the 2010 season, Woodhead latched on with the Patriots and made a significant impact as both a rusher and pass catcher. Woodhead has averaged 4.8 yards per carry over the last three seasons, eighth-best among running backs with at least 200 carries in that stretch.