2012 Free Agency: 7 Key Players That the New England Patriots Must Resign

Tony Santorsa@@TonySantorsaSenior Writer IIFebruary 7, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots fights off the tackle of Michael Boley #59 of the New York Giants  in the first half during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Now that the 2011 NFL season is in the books with the New England Patriots falling just short in Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants, it's time to start looking towards next season. 

It's pretty impressive that the Patriots made it all the way to the Super Bowl despite having so many flaws offensively and defensively, and the offseason is the place for them to improve on these holes. 

First and foremost, the Patriots need to take a good hard look at themselves and their upcoming free agents and see which ones they would like to bring back.

With that being said, here are seven key players that New England has to re-sign. 

Deion Branch, WR

What the New England Patriots need to do is bring back Deion Branch, but they cannot bring him back to have the same role that he's had the past two seasons.

Branch is not a No. 1 wide receiver. He cannot be New England's starting wide receiver with Wes Welker in the slot—the Patriots need to find a true No. 1 and move Branch as the No. 2 while keeping Welker in the slot. 

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At 32 years old, Branch had a solid season for the Patriots as he caught 51 passes for 702 yards and five touchdowns and deserves to be back next season.

Andre Carter, DE

There is no reason why the Patriots should not bring back Andre Carter.

Prior to being placed on injured reserve, Carter was arguably the team's best defender while being the team's most dominant defensive linemen.

In 14 games this season, Carter tallied up 52 total tackles while compiling 10 sacks. 

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB

Despite having Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen waiting in the wings, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is perfect for New England's passing offense as he's a solid north-and-south runner while never fumbling in his entire career.

In 16 games this season for Green-Ellis, he accumulated 667 yards on 181 carries while punching in 11 touchdowns. 

Dan Koppen, C 

Dan Koppen appeared in just one game this season for the Patriots as he fractured his left ankle and fibula against the Miami Dolphins in Week 1.

Koppen is a Pro Bowl-caliber center that has done a terrific job ever since being drafted by New England in the fifth round of the 2003 draft.

There's no reason why the Patriots let Koppen go. 

Kyle Love, DT

Kyle Love is a young defensive tackle that has shown signs of being a very dependable option for New England on their defensive line.

Love is only 25 years old and has compiled 40 tackles and four sacks while playing in 25 games throughout his two-year career as a Patriot.

Matthew Slater, WR

Matthew Slater may not be the greatest wide receiver but he is the team's special teams captain.

Slater has done a phenomenal job covering kicks and punts for the Patriots and needs to be brought back with a long-term contract. 

In 16 games this season for New England, Slater recorded 24 total tackles and forced one fumble. 

Wes Welker, WR

Do I really need to explain this one?

Wes Welker needs to be brought back with a long-term deal as a New England Patriot. He is Tom Brady's go-to man.

Forget Welker's drop in Super Bowl XLVI, he's one incredible wide receiver that has caught 100-plus receptions in four of his five seasons as a Patriot. 

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