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The Patriots started talking about Townsend in the middle of the week, but the Steelers felt it was important to re-sign him. Though they are grooming Bryant McFadden to be a starting cornerback and they think he will be a good one, they didn't want to lose the reality of Townsend, and they wanted to keep him around until McFadden was ready and beyond.
The 30-year-old has been with the Steelers eight years. He was a fourth-round pick in 1998 and has been a starter for the past 2½ seasons.
The Patriots had spots open in the secondary after the releases of cornerbacks Tyrone Poole and Duane Starks.
John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.