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In this paper, we present an accelerator that is designed to improve performance of network processing applications, particularly layer seven networking applications. The accelerator can easily be integrated in Network Processors. We present the design details of two different FPGA implementations: a design where each task is implemented in the accelerator and another one where the accelerator must be partially reconfigured for different tasks. We also present novel algorithms for important tasks such as tree lookup and pattern matching that utilize the accelerator. We show that the accelerator improves the overall execution time by as much as 20-times for these tasks. We show that the accelerator can improve the execution time of a representative layer seven application by an order of magnitude. Finally, we discuss the effects of reconfiguration time and frequency over the performance of the accelerator.