Pats sign Rivers to be third tight end on team

New England second-year tight end David Thomas will miss the rest of the season after the Patriots placed him on injured reserve Wednesday with a foot injury suffered in the Monday night victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

To replace Thomas on the roster, the Patriots signed free agent Marcellus Rivers, a five-year veteran who had been released twice by New England this season. Rivers practiced with the team on Wednesday and could play in Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.

Rivers, 28, will serve as the No. 3 tight end on the roster, behind starter Benjamin Watson and backup Kyle Brady. Because the New England offense frequently employs formations with multiple tight ends, Rivers figures to be active for most games.

The former Oklahoma State standout was signed by the Patriots in August as a free agent after spending one week on the New Orleans roster in 2006. He was released at the final cutdown before the start of the season, re-signed for one week, then released again.

In 75 games, including 13 starts, Rivers has 51 catches for 395 yards and four touchdowns. He is a solid in-line blocker and capable short-range receiver, with some ability to separate from defenders in the red zone.

He entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2001, and has played with the New York Giants (2001-2004), Houston Texans (2005) and the Saints (2006).

A third-round pick in the 2006 draft, Thomas played in two games this season, and had one catch for nine yards. The former University of Texas star has 12 receptions for 168 yards and one touchdown for his career. He has played in 17 games and started three of them.