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Tuesday, June 22, 2004
Updated: June 23, 8:02 PM ET
Hill signs five-year deal

By Len Pasquarelli
ESPN.com

The New England Patriots made their first draft pick deal a significant one, signing former LSU defensive end Marquise Hill, the Super Bowl champions' second-round choice in the April lottery.

ESPN.com reported on Tuesday that Hill and the Pats had reached an agreement.

Hill, 21, is not only the first of the Patriots' eight selections to reach agreement but is also the highest drafted player so far to come to contract terms. He is one of just two prospects taken on the opening day of the draft -- the other is third-round offensive tackle Travelle Wharton of the Carolina Panthers -- to strike a contract accord at this point.

The 63rd player selected overall, and the final pick of the second round, Hill signed a five-year, $3.075 million contract Wednesday, a deal that included a signing bonus of $1.15 million. Base salaries are the league minimums for all five years: $230,000 (2004), $305,000 (2005), $385,000 (2006), $460,000 (2007) and $545,000 (2008). There is a package of incentives and potential "escalators" as well.

There is a $460,000 salary cap charge for the first season of the contract. New England has a rookie allocation of $4.13 million. The Patriots have a pair of first-round choices, defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and tight end Ben Watson, to sign.

Unofficially, just 23 of the 255 players chosen in the draft have reached contract accords. Of those, 15 are sixth- and seventh-rounders.

A two-year starter and a player who bypassed his final season of college eligibility to enter the draft, Hill totaled 117 tackles, with 19½ of those for losses, at LSU. He also had 10 sacks, 36 quarterback pressures, two forced fumbles and an interception.

An imposing physical presence, at 6-feet-6½ and just shy of 300 pounds, Hill was the biggest end prospect in the '04 draft pool. While somewhat raw, the New Orleans native is an excellent fit for the New England 3-4 scheme, a front that requires bigger ends and outside defenders who can anchor against the run.

New England has also added defensive tackle Talifaia Atoe, a first-year player from the University of Idaho who was in the Arizona Cardinals camp last summer, and who just finished a stint with the Cologne Centurions of the NFL Europe League.

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