FOXBORO, Mass. — It's no wonder the Patriots went after Brian Waters. The bigger question: What took them so long?
Waters, a five-time Pro Bowler at left guard, is a mauler who was compared to Logan Mankins over and over Monday at Gillette Stadium. The 11-year veteran will add depth to the offensive line, and he could push Dan Connolly for the starting job at right guard.
Opposing defensive linemen can't stand facing one Mankins at a time. The thought that they could line up against two likeminded, nasty guards should be even more disconcerting.
"I'm glad he's on this side, I'll tell you that," Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork said. "As a rookie, I remember going against Brian and [Will] Shields — two tough Hall of Fame-type guards. I'm happy he's here, I'll tell you that."
Waters has been familiar with a number of Patriots, as well as a good portion of the coaching staff — notably head coach Bill Belichick and offensive line guru Dante Scarnecchia — due to his five trips to the Pro Bowl. His new teammates couldn't have spoken much more highly of him.
"He's just a solid player," Mankins said. "He plays hard. He cleans out the pocket. That's something we like to do here, hitting people. He's a really good pass blocker, a good run blocker and he's very consistent. He's been a good player for a long time.
"That's why I was a fan of him. He played like I do. We like that."
Waters was released by the Chiefs in July — "a mutual parting," as he called it — and spent the last month and a half at home with his wife and kids as he weighed his options for the 2011 season. He said it was never in doubt that he'd play his 12th season, but he wanted to make sure it was the right opportunity with a strong organization that had a chance to win a Super Bowl.
The Patriots called him Friday and brought him to the facility Saturday before signing the 34-year-old to a two-year contract.
"It's a great organization," Waters said. "The record speaks for itself. This is a football team that is a contender year in and year out."
While Waters has spent the majority of his career playing at left guard, he knows his most immediate need in New England might be at right guard, where he said he has played "a little bit."
The signing, at least on the Patriots' end, was likely spurred by the health concerns over Connolly and Ryan Wendell, who each returned to practice Monday. At this point, it's too early to tell if Waters would be a better option than Connolly to start in Monday's season opener against the Dolphins, but Waters said he's preparing this week as if he'll play throughout the game.
That will be tough in terms of conditioning, and he joked about asking him Tuesday in regards to how quickly he can bounce back after Monday's practice. At the very least, Waters will add some quality depth to the offensive line, and he can be a tremendous insurance policy as the backup at guard. And maybe, as the season goes on, the Patriots might want to add that level of nastiness to the first unit.
"The way that he plays the position is kind of the way we feel like we would want it played," Belichick said. "We?ve gone up against him a number of times. I have a lot of respect for Brian, his play, his professionalism, what he brings to the team."