The Patriots have made a major move towards improving their secondary by signing free agent cornerback Deltha O’Neal to a contract this morning. O’Neal will be thrust into a cornerback corps that includes Ellis Hobbs, Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite, and Lewis Sanders. At his press conference, Bill Belichick had this to say on O’Neal:
“He is a very athletic corner, good ball skills, pretty big guy who goes up and plays a lot of press coverage, has done that in the past. Physical player. Good tackler. Good interceptor. Returner. We’ve seen the back of his jersey on that a couple of times.”
O’Neal is no longer an elite cornerback, but if he comes ready to work, he could push himself into a starting position by the end of the year. At 5’11”, he adds a little more height to the cornerback group. He doesn’t have top-end speed, but he is still a natural ball-hawk. It will be interesting to see how quickly he adapts to the Patriots system. However, Belichick must of seen something was left, otherwise he would not have signed him. He was already spotted in the locker room.
O’Neal will wear number 21. To make room for O’Neal on the roster, the Patriots released tight end Stephen Spach.
The Patriots also announced two more moves. They signed guard Jacob Bender and tight end Tyson DeVree to the practice sqad. Bender is a guard who was a late pick last year, and shows some promise. DeVree has been on and off the roster since May.