There are a handful of really good centers on the free-agent market, but the Patriots opted for a familiar face who has been a valued offensive lineman in New England for five seasons.
Dan Connolly re-signed Thursday with the Patriots, according to the Boston Globe. Connolly has been with the Patriots since 2007, but his greatest contributions have come in the last two seasons.
He filled in for left guard Logan Mankins during his holdout in 2010 before replacing right guard Stephen Neal after his season-ending injury. Connolly, who turns 30 in September, took over for center Dan Koppen after his season-ending injury in the 2011 opener.
It's unclear how Connolly's signing will affect Koppen's future with New England. However, Connolly has played well enough over the last two seasons to earn a starting job somewhere in the league, if not with the Patriots, so it would be surprising if he chose to remain in New England in a backup capacity. Therefore, this could spell the end of Koppen's nine-year run with the Patriots.
The list of free-agent starting centers included Koppen, Scott Wells, Chris Myers, Samson Satele, Jeff Saturday and Matt Birk, among others. Yet, the leaders of the pack like Wells and Myers will command a higher price than Connolly, who has obviously responded well to New England's system and Dante Scarnecchia's coaching.