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New England Patriots Must Move to Re-Sign Connolly Before NFL Draft

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer IApril 17, 2015

January 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots offensive lineman Dan Connolly (63) against the Denver Broncos in the 2013 AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For a minute, it looked like the market might finally pick up for free-agent guard Dan Connolly. The New England Patriots were still interested in re-signing their veteran interior lineman, but at least four other teams had joined the fray, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Media

Connolly took a visit with one of those four teams—the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—and left without a deal. Silence ever since then.

The Patriots do not appear to have heavy competition for Connolly's services, probably because there are other teams that are interested but none who will put their money where their mouth is. That doesn't mean they should continue to wait to sign Connolly.

Not only does the 10-year veteran have seven years of experience in the Patriots offense, but he also has starting experience at every position on the inside of the line: left guard, center and right guard.

The Patriots value versatility on the offensive line. After the events of last year, how couldn't they? It was because of the ability of Connolly and Ryan Wendell to slide into multiple positions that the Patriots were finally able to sort out the offensive line struggles of the first four weeks.

Matt Chatham @chatham58

If Dan Connolly doesn't re-sign w/ #Patriots...HUGE hole to fill. High-level play is 1 thing. 3-position starter is the tuff-to-replace part

As of right now, though, the Patriots don't have a bona fide starting guard on the roster. Yes, Wendell played admirably in that role last year, but he is in the final year of a two-year deal and could be just a stopgap to a better long-term solution—the Patriots would reclaim $2.025 million of his $2.45 million cap hit if they cut him. Jordan Devey and Marcus Cannon were part of the revolving door of interior linemen in the first four games last season. 

The Patriots could be in the market to draft a guard, as well, and there's a distinct possibility there could be an open competition for both guard spots in training camp this year.

Myriad prospects have been connected to the Patriots, perhaps fueled by the fact that former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has been serving as a consultant for the team during the scouting process. He was in attendance at Florida State's pro day, according to ESPN's Mike Reiss, presumably to scout some of the five draft-eligible linemen who were on hand.

Who knows if any of those linemen will be ready to contribute in 2015, but everyone knows Connolly will be, regardless of where he lines up.

This is rather unlike the Patriots, who typically prefer to have all their pressing needs addressed before the draft to allow themselves the freedom to pick the best player available on the board at any given point. Even if they re-sign Connolly, guard could still be considered a need just because of the lack of depth.

Bryan Stork is entrenched as the starting center; Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer are the bookend offensive tackles. The guard spots are question marks. Signing Connolly would literally cut the Patriots' worries in half on the offensive line.

Unless otherwise noted, all salary cap and contract information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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