Wide receiver Donte Stallworth had one of the best seasons of his career with the Patriots, and the free agent would love to get another shot to play in New England.
Stallworth, who is coming off a one-year deal with the Ravens, really opened up about the possibility of catching passes from quarterback Tom Brady.
"Oh yeah, definitely, I had the best time in New England," Stallworth said from his home in Miami. "I made a lot of friends in that area, in the organization, on the team. It was a weird feeling coming back there when we played [in Week 6], although I was still injured with my broken foot, but I was able to speak with a lot of people within the organization that I had been in contact with, but finally being able to see them in person for the first time in years.
"I had a chance to speak to [Patriots owner Robert Kraft] and tell him thank you for allowing me to be his team. Obviously, Mr. Kraft is one of the best owners in all of sports. I still have a lot of friends there, still have a lot of friends on the team, still close with some of the coaches there. [Returning to New England] would definitely be an option. I want to be able to put myself in position to be able to show that I can still play football, and I would definitely 100 percent go to New England."
Stallworth's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is in Alabama this week for the Senior Bowl, which is attended by front office members of every team in the NFL, and Stallworth is hoping Rosenhaus bumps into someone from the Patriots.
"Hopefully, if he's able to run across someone within the Patriots' organization and make a good conversation, that wouldn't be too bad of an idea," Stallworth said with a laugh.
Stallworth, the 13th overall pick in the 2002 draft, spent his first four seasons with Saints, catching 195 passes for 2,791 yards and 23 touchdowns.
After one season with the Eagles, Stallworth signed a tricky contract with the Patriots in 2007. On the surface, it could have kept Stallworth in New England for six seasons, but due to $11 million in reported bonuses that he would have received in his second season, the Patriots parted ways.
In New England, Stallworth played for the most prolific offense in NFL history, registering 46 receptions (the third most of his eight-season career) for 697 yards and three touchdowns. As much as he enjoyed his time with the Patriots, he understood that his contract was too much for the franchise to bear.
"Honestly, at that point in my career, I had been in the business for awhile," said Stallworth, who turned 30 in November. "Obviously, Randy [Moss] had literally a record-breaking season, and I knew that we had just signed Wes Welker to a pretty lucrative contract — well deserved, obviously — and Randy was on a one-year deal as well. I knew they would be bringing Randy back [in 2008]. I knew that my price tag was pretty hefty at the time, and we really didn't make any major negotiations as far as a reduction in salary. It was more of an option that they had to pick up. At that moment, I pretty much knew what was going to happen."
Stallworth played with the Browns in 2008 and was suspended by the NFL for the 2009 season after he pled guilty to DUI manslaughter.
Stallworth broke his foot in the 2010 preseason and didn't return until October. He was voted the Ed Block Courage Award winner by his teammates — the same award that Welker earned this season in New England — but he only had two receptions all year.
During his peak years, Stallworth was one of the game's elite downfield threats, and he's optimistic that he's got "a lot of years left." If the Patriots try to upgrade their third receiving position this offseason, Stallworth would certainly be a worthy option due to his familiarity with the offense and his past success with Brady.
Stallworth said he just wants the opportunity "to fight for some playing time," and on Wednesday night, he made it clear that he'd be excited to do that with the Patriots.
"You never know how things turn out," Stallworth said. "With me spending one year there and now having the possible opportunity to be able to go back there, I wouldn't mind it at all."