How Patriots' Addition of C Dan Koppen Will Change Their Offensive Line

Samer IsmailAnalyst IIApril 13, 2012

C Dan Koppen (67) resigned with the Patriots
C Dan Koppen (67) resigned with the PatriotsElsa/Getty Images

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter and the NFL Network's Albert Breer, the Patriots have re-signed their longtime center, Dan Koppen.

Breer reports that Koppen, an unrestricted free agent who had previously visited the Tennessee Titans but didn't sign with them, signed a two-year deal worth about $6 million.

Koppen didn't receive a huge amount of interest this offseason, as he will be 33 when the season begins, he is a bit undersized (the Patriots' roster lists him at 6'2", 296), and he has been recovering from a broken ankle he suffered in Week 1 last season.

This deal is sure to please Tom Brady, who has relied on Koppen as his center for most of his career, and Bill Belichick, who has lauded Koppen's intelligence and ability to adjust blocking calls at the line of scrimmage. On the other hand, it does raise a major quandary, as the Patriots just signed Koppen's replacement, Dan Connolly, to a three-year deal with $3.25 million in signing bonus. At the time, it seemed that Connolly would be the Patriots' starting center of the future.

Now, it's not clear who'll be the starter, although Koppen has to have the upper hand based on his experience. That said, Koppen sometimes struggles with heavier 3-4 nose tackles, so this will definitely be a camp battle to watch.

In no way, though, should this be seen as the Patriots making a "mistake" in re-signing Connolly. Resigning Koppen gives the Patriots the flexibility to move Connolly to guard, which is also a question mark for the Patriots. Their starting left guard, Logan Mankins, is recovering from ACL surgery after the Super Bowl while right guard Brian Waters is considering retirement. While Connolly isn't as good a guard as either Mankins or Waters, he certainly is capable of holding his own at the guard spot; he filled in for both Stephen Neal and Logan Mankins in 2010.

And if both Mankins and Waters are good to go, the Patriots can always use Connolly as a kick returner.


Last week, I predicted that, if the season were to start on April 1, the offensive line crew would be:

Starters: LT Nate Solder, LG Mankins, C Connolly, RG Waters, RT Sebastian Vollmer

Backups: Marcus Cannon (T/G?), Robert Gallery (T/G), Nick McDonald (C/G), Ryan Wendell (C/G), 

I had Donald Thomas as the 10th OL, in case Mankins starts the season on PUP or Waters retired.

Now, with Koppen's return, I see him displacing Connolly as the starter at center. I suspect that Mankins will be placed on PUP to give him more time to recover and give the Pats more time to decide what to do with their other linemen.

Starters: LT Nate Solder, LG Connolly/Waters, C Koppen, RG Connolly/Waters, RT Sebastian Vollmer

PUP: Mankins

Backups: Marcus Cannon (T/G?), Robert Gallery (T/G), Nick McDonald (C/G), Ryan Wendell (C/G), 

This also affects the Patriots' draft board, as many draft analysts had the Patriots taking a center, possibly even in the first round. With the Patriots currently boasting four players who can play center, including a prospect they "stole" from the Green Bay Packers, that seems far less likely.

A guard prospect might still be in play, but I don't anticipate New England selecting a center in this year's draft at all.