FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – The New England Patriots signed veteran free agent linebacker Chad Brown on Thursday and released cornerback Antwain Spann, wide receiver Jonathan Smith and tight end Jake Nordin.

Brown, 36, a veteran of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, also played for the Patriots in 2005. He has 79 career sacks in 14 NFL seasons, ranking second among active NFL linebackers. In his previous season with the Patriots, Brown had 54 defensive tackles and three on special teams in 15 games.

He had seven tackles, including a sack, in eight games last season for the Steelers, the team that drafted him out of Colorado in 1993. The three-time Pro Bowl pick was a four-year starter for Pittsburgh, before spending eight seasons with Seattle.

Spann, 24, played in eight regular-season games last year and three in the postseason. Smith, 25, played in two games for New England in 2006 after being claimed off waivers from the Buffalo Bills.

He had been re-signed by the Patriots in February. Nordin, 23, was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Northern Illinois in May.

AP-ES-07-19-07 1903EDT