by Scott Benson

The New England Patriots jumped into the 2007 free agency pool with both feet on Friday, reaching with alacrity a surprising first-day agreement in principle with highly-coveted Baltimore linebacker Adalius Thomas.

The Herald’s John Tomase, who set a blogging standard with his Friday work on The Point After, and the always reliable Mike Reiss of the Globe have the stories.

Thomas will reportedly finalize the agreement in New England today, after routine physical exams. Details are unclear, but Tomase writes that it could include up to $20 million in guaranteed money.

A stunning turn by the team that has been panned locally and nationally as dour penny-pinchers. To the surprise of nearly everyone, the Penurious Patriots broke mold and became headline makers on the first day of veteran free agency.

It may be tempting to wonder if the Pats were motivated by a desire to reverse the doom and gloom of last year’s exodus of core players with an immediate splashy signing. But a closer look at Thomas – like the one offered here by David Fleming of ESPN The Magazine – gives pause to consider whether the versatile defender would have been a priority for New England no matter when he became available.

It just so happens that the man Rex Ryan calls a cross between Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks came free at the same time the Patriots had nearly $20 million to invest in their 2007 roster. A Perfect Storm, if you will, on a stormy day in New England.

Thomas, who as a Raven made the Pro Bowl both as a special teamer and as a linebacker, reinvigorates a flagging New England defense. Despite setting a team record for fewest points allowed last season, the Patriots are aging in key spots and buckling in others. The prolific hybrid, who has lined up at tackle, end, linebacker, and even safety, brings an entirely new element to the Patriots defense, and gives New England a third (along with Richard Seymour and Ty Warren) elite front seven player. They seem like a markedly different team today.

Viewers of this video were heard to ask ‘when does the season start again?’

Reiss notes with not a trace of irony that Pats coach Bill Belichick, roasted as a surly despot by a finger-wagging media for much of January, clearly made a positive impression on the prize free agent when Belichick coached the AFC Pro Bowl squad. “He’s actually a really nice guy,” said the newest Patriot then. “I was surprised.” Money talks, of course, but Belichick’s time in Hawaii was evidently well spent.

In other Friday developments, Dan Graham found no end to the line of suitors outside his door. It looks like he’s a goner, off to explore his inner-receiver. He was a terrific Patriot, and he will be missed. The Patriots entertained Kyle Brady as a possible replacement, and also visited with reserve runner Sammy Morris.