Jones, Warfield, Mitchell Plug Defensive Backfield
The New England Patriots signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers placekicker Martin Gramatica as a possible replacement for departed hero Adam Vinatieri in one of four signings this past week. Former Patriot Tebucky Jones rejoins the team at safety, while the additions of cornerback Eric Warfield on Monday and safety Mel Mitchell on Tuesday give definition to a once depleted defensive backfield. Terms of none of the deals were disclosed.
Gramatica, 30, rapidly declined due to injury in 2003 with Tampa Bay and 2004 in Indianapolis before sitting out 2005. Once known as "Automatica" Gramatica, he made 14 field goals of more than 50 yards in his heyday with the Bucs.
Martin Gramatica, left, during his Tampa Bay heyday; Tebucky Jones, center, returns to the team that drafted him; and Eric Warfield, making one of his 20 career interceptions. All three, plus defensive back Mel Mitchell, signed with New England this week.
In his first four years from 1999 to 2002, Gramatica was 110 of 134 (82.1 percent) and 100 percent on his 127 extra points; but he dropped off significantly the next season, connecting on only 16 of 26 (61.5 percent) and 33 of 34 extra points. He fell further in 2004 with the Colts in relief of an injured Mike Vanderjagt, making only 11 of 19 (57.9 percent) with 21 of 22 extra points.
Gramatica had surgery on torn muscles in his lower abdomen in the offseason, but was not ready by fall of 2005 and sat out the season. He says, and at least the Patriots expect, that he has fully recovered, but whether he can return to pre-2003 form is subject to intense speculation and has been met with varying degrees of skepticism.
Gramatica once had great strength in his leg, making 5 of 6 50-plus-yard field goals in 2002. During his downturn, it was his accuracy more than his strength that failed him. He missed 6 of 12 field goals from between 30 and 39 yards in his last two seasons, while still making 2 of 4 50-yarders.
Jones was a Pete Carroll / Bobby Grier draftee in 1998. Carroll tried to make Jones, a running back at Syracuse before moving to safety in his senior season, into a cornerback, where he never thrived, making fewer than 30 tackles a season.
When Bill Belichick became head coach, he moved Jones back to safety, and his production greatly increased, averaging more than 60 tackles a year over the next three seasons. He also had four interceptions in those years versus none in his first two seasons.
Jones spent two seasons with New Orleans, making a career-high 101 tackles in 2004. Last year, he had 39 tackles in six injury-limited games with Miami.
Warfield, 30, has spent the first eight seasons of his career with Kansas City. In 115 career games, the 6-foot, 200-pound nickelback has 393 tackles, 20 interceptions (236 yards, 3 TDs), 63 passes defended, five forced fumbles and 31 special teams tackles.
Mitchell, 27, has spent his first four seasons with New Orleans. In 43 career games, the 6-foot-1, 222-pound safety and special teamer has 64 special teams tackles, two forced fumbles, and a blocked punt. He missed the entire 2003 season on injured reserve.