Offensive guard Josh Kline was set to be a free agent after this season, but the New England Patriots signed him to an extension in the middle of the season. The team did the same for tackle Nate Solder, running back Dion Lewis, and linebacker Jonathan Freeny. Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio know what they want and they're willing to put money on the table to keep players around.
So what about the key players that don't have a guarantee beyond this year? How have they been playing? Are they safe? Let's take a look.
Ryan Wendell: The offensive captain hasn't played, but the extension for Kline seems to put the writing on the wall for Wendell's future in New England.
Tarell Brown: The veteran was supposed to be a one-year bandaid, but he wasn't able to stay on the field. It's unlikely the Patriots will bring him back.
James Develin: The fullback is loved around the locker room and the Patriots have missed his presence in the backfield. As long as Josh McDaniels is around, Develin will be invited back (unless the Patriots draft Glenn Gronkowski). Develin is a restricted free agent so the Patriots have control of his rights.
Brian Tyms: The Patriots like his work ethic, but Tyms hasn't been able to pan out in this offense. If he returns, it will be as a lower priority. Tyms is also a restricted free agent.
Rufus Johnson: After flashing in the preseason, Johnson was unable to stick it out in the regular season, although it's possible he has the Foxboro Flu. As an exclusive rights free agent, he's almost a guarantee to be back with the Patriots.
Brandon Gibson: Don't sleep on Gibson getting an invite after he's spent the season on the injured reserve. While he'd be a low priority, he was fairly successful in the preseason.
LeGarrette Blount: While the Patriots don't overvalue running backs, don't count out a return for the 29-year-old Blount. He has very little wear on his tires and he's already been through the free agency process. He's likely to stay on the cheap.
Justin Coleman: The rookie cornerback is an exclusive rights free agent and he's going to stick around. He's been quite a find.
Nate Ebner: Bill Belichick loves his special teamers and Ebner is the team leader. Don't be shocked if Ebner is the next player to receive an extension.
Dane Fletcher: Still on the PUP list, the Patriots really like what he offers even though he hasn't seen the field.
Akiem Hicks: The mid-season acquisition from the Saints has proven his mettle as a run stuffer. The Patriots would like to have him back, but it's very possible that he could sign a contract elsewhere in free agency and net New England a nice compensatory pick.
Brandon King: King is a sleeper to be a core special teams player moving forward and the Patriots have exclusive control. He'll be back.
Keshawn Martin: Martin came on strong after being acquired from the Texans and he's a player the Patriots probably wouldn't mind having on the roster, especially if another wide receiver gets pushed off the team.
Dewey McDonald: The recent pick-up from the Colts is contributing on special teams. The Patriots have exclusive rights. They won't make a decision until after the season.
Rashaan Melvin: Another exclusive rights player, the Patriots can decide what they want to do down the road (likely open up his roster spot for a veteran).
Sealver Siliga: The Patriots control Siliga's rights as a restricted free agent and it's likely the Patriots will like to keep him around. He's another sleeper for an extension.
Tavon Wilson: After battling with Ebner for special teams supremacy in the offseason, it's clear that Wilson is the odd-man out and will likely not be with the team next season.
Alan Branch: The 350 lbs veteran has been a great asset for this defense and it's very possible the Patriots will pick up his option.
Rob Gronkowski: The Patriots have a five year roster option to pick up on Gronkowski after this season. There's zero question that they'll pick it up.
Jerod Mayo: Mayo has quietly faded out of focus and it's probable that this is his last season in New England.
Note: Danny Amendola does not have an option in his contract.