"I'm smiling ear to ear," Stallworth told NESN.com on Monday, right after signing a one-year contract with New England. "I'm very glad to be back — very, very glad."
The 31-year-old initially hoped to return to the Redskins for a second season, but they spent aggressively for free agent wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan. Once that happened, Stallworth and the Patriots rekindled their old flame.
Stallworth caught 46 passes for 697 yards and three touchdowns during his lone season with the Patriots' record-setting offense in 2007. However, he signed a six-year contract that included a huge escalator in the second season, which caused the Patriots to part ways with the wide receiver.
There's no telling what could happen in his second go-round. On one hand, Stallworth has already played well as a complementary piece on New England offense that has been difficult for veterans to grasp, so he could get back into that rhythm in 2012.
But on the other hand, he's joining a deep group of wide receivers that includes Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd, Anthony Gonzalez, Chad Ochocinco, Tiquan Underwood, Julian Edelman (a potential defensive convert) and Matthew Slater (a true special teamer). Plus, the Patriots could still re-sign Deion Branch and add more help in the draft. The bottom line is there will be a big name — or two, or three — who gets cut in the coming months.
With all of those numbers in place, Stallworth said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick was simple with his message.
"[Belichick] just said I'll have an opportunity to play," Stallworth said, "and that's all you can ask for."
Stallworth — who hopes to wear No. 19, since Slater already owns No. 18 — said he'll report to Gillette Stadium as early as possible to get ready for the season and find his stride in the offense.
Stallworth sounds motivated to make it work in 2012. After all, he's wanted to return to New England since he was released in 2008 due to a huge hike in his salary, though he's never held any ill feelings toward the organization. In fact, he has always held Belichick, owner Robert Kraft, quarterback Tom Brady and everyone else in the highest regard, so he's looking forward to getting back to work.
"Whatever my role is, I want to fulfill it and more," Stallworth said. "Whatever my role ends up, I just want to exceed that and play my best ball I've played in my career."