Rob Gronkowski and Dan Connolly in 2010.
Fourth in a ten part series that ranks the Patriots top offseason moves.
It was a move that flew mostly under the radar, but the New England Patriots' decision to re-sign center/guard Dan Connolly was without a doubt, one of the team's best moves of the 2012 offseason.
While there was certainly more excitement surrounding the additions of new faces such as Jonathan Fanene and Steve Gregory (moves that ranked #9 and #8 on this list) who filled immediate needs, the team's new deal with Dan Connolly is more critical to the long-term and future success of the team.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest areas of concern heading into 2012 is along the offensive line: Left guard Logan Mankins is recovering from an ACL injury, right guard Brian Waters is contemplating retirement, left tackle Matt Light just retired, and right tackle Sebastian Vollmer is struggling with back issues. Re-signing Dan Connolly was such a big move because he can act as a band-aid in so many different spots.
I've talked about it so many times before in this space, but Dan Connolly's versatility is so underrated. He can play all three interior line positions at a well-above average level. Consider the following scenarios:
Problem: Logan Mankins isn't ready to start the year due to ACL injury
Solution: Plug in Dan Connolly at left guard, start Dan Kopppen or Ryan Wendell at Center
Problem: Brian Waters retires
Solution: Plug in Dan Connolly at right guard, start Dan Kopppen or Ryan Wendell at Center
Problem: Sebastian Vollmer goes down with injury
Solution: Slide Logan Mankins to left tackle, plug in Connolly at left guard, start Koppen or Wendell at center, shift Solder to right tackle
Solution: Dan Connolly starts at center, where he is an above average option getting on a 3 year, $9.7 million contract
While the third scenario may be a stretch (Cannon would likely just step in at RT), it illustrates a point: having a versatile interior lineman such as Dan Connolly gives the Patriots a ton of different options and solutions along the offensive line. I didn't even mention the fact that he's only 29, getting paid only $3 million per year, and can return kicks.