The motivation to sign with New England was pretty simple for receiver Brandon LaFell.
The Patriots called him on the first day of free agency last week and showed a lot more interest than his previous team, the Panthers. Factor in the opportunity to catch passes from Tom Brady and make the playoffs each year, and it was an easy sell.
“The chance of getting the ball more, and winning, really,” said LaFell on a conference call Wednesday. “I had a chance to play with a Hall of Fame quarterback. One day, Cam [Newton], will be there probably, but he’s not there now. And I felt like it was a better chance to come up here and get more balls and win than it was with Carolina.
“Nothing against those guys — great organization, those guys are going to win. But it’s proven up here. These guys are winning up here the last 10-plus years, so why not come to a winning organization?”
LaFell, 27, who signed a three-year deal over the weekend for $9 million with $3 million guaranteed, has caught between 36 and 49 passes in each of his four seasons, compiling 167 overall for 2,385 yards and 13 touchdowns since the Panthers made him a third-round pick in 2010. He set career highs in 2013 with 49 catches and five touchdowns, and had 627 yards as the Panthers’ No. 2 receiver behind Steve Smith.
LaFell, who is 6 feet 2 inches and 210 pounds, joins Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, and others in the receiver rotation and gives the Patriots a bigger option in the slot. LaFell caught seven passes for 59 yards and a touchdown in a game against the Patriots last season, and said he was amazed with Brady when watching film in the week leading up to the game.
“When we were watching film last year, we were always like, ‘Man, those receivers will just put their hands up’ — no matter how the guy was on them, they would put their hand up and the ball was always in perfect placement,” said LaFell. “You’ve got a guy that can pinpoint the ball like he does year in and year out, man, it’s great.”
LaFell said he has only traded a few texts with Brady in the last few days because Brady is out of the country.
LaFell also gets to reunite with a former LSU teammate, running back Stevan Ridley, who is entering the final year of his contract. LaFell said he spoke with Ridley shortly before he signed his contract.
“He’s like, ‘Man, we’ve got a bunch of young guys that play a lot of good ball, but we need another veteran to step in and help those guys grow,’ ” LaFell said.
“ ‘You’ve got to be able to sacrifice your off-the-field life. You’ve got to put in extra time in film and extra time after practice.’ He just kept saying the word ‘sacrifice.’ ”
Also Wednesday, the Patriots signed long snapper Charley Hughlett to compete with incumbent Danny Aiken. Hughlett played college football at Central Florida and spent the 2012 training camp with the Cowboys.Follow Ben Volin on Twitter at @BenVolin.