The New England Patriots have 20 impending free agents from their Super Bowl squad. Among them are some key contributors to the team’s Super Bowl run. Here are the key offensive free agents, and my quick thoughts on their future in New England. Look for the key defensive free agents list tomorrow.
WR Wes Welker – By franchise tag or contract extension, Welker will be back with the Pats in 2012. Brady said after the Super Bowl that he hoped Welker would return to the team.
WR Deion Branch – Branch said after the Super Bowl that he’d like to retire as a New England Patriot, but that time isn’t now. He’ll likely be back for a reduced rate and a lesser role, as I expect the Pats to hit free agency and/or the draft hard at the position. I don’t think Brady will let his best friend go twice.
RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis – The Law Firm fits well into the Patriot offense. The question is what interest will he receive from other teams. If the numbers match, he’ll be back. If another team offers him more money, I don’t see the Pats getting into a bidding war for his services.
RB Kevin Faulk – After having a very reduced role this past season, I see Faulk retiring. I also think he’d make a great coach and hope that he considers a role as assistant running backs coach with the team.
QB Brian Hoyer – Hoyer is a restricted free agent. The Pats will likely give him a second-round tender to either retain his services as a skilled backup or recoup the time they took developing him by getting another team’s second-round pick.
OL Dan Connolly – Connolly did a phenomenal job stepping in for Dan Koppen, who was injured in the first game of the 2011 regular season. The Patriots will likely want him back, as he can not only play center, but both guard positions as well.
C Dan Koppen – I’m really on the fence with this one. He was injured in the first game of the 2011 regular season and the offensive line didn’t miss a beat when Connolly stepped in. He’s 32 years old, and on top of Connolly’s emergence , there are a few centers with first- and second-round grades that the Pats could target if they’re looking more towards the future. I’ll have to give his chances of returning 50/50.