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Patriots OG Ryan Wendell Still Rehabbing; Could He Return When Healthy?

The 2015 team captain is still trying to get back from his knee injury.

The 2015 New England Patriots offensive line was a lot of things: inexperienced, inconsistent and – at times – simply not good enough to give Tom Brady and the offense a chance to operate at the level necessary. A major reason for this was the interior line, which was a weakness throughout the entire year – not only due to performance but also due to injury.

Starting center Bryan Stork began the year on the physically unable to perform list and wasn't activated until early November. When he was activated to the Patriots' 53-man roster he took the place of another interior offensive lineman: guard Ryan Wendell.

Wendell, who was voted team captain prior to the year, was viewed as a favorite to earn one of the two guard spots in the offseason – after all, he was a starter at right guard during the team's 2014 Super Bowl season. However, an illness forced the veteran to miss the early stages of the 2015 season before a knee injury led to New England placing Wendell on season-ending injured reserve.

It turns out that the 30-year old is still rehabbing from this injury (via the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian):

l'm told free agent OL Ryan Wendell is still in the rehab process from knee surgery, so it'll be awhile before he signs on anywhere

Wendell is currently an unrestricted free agent and has not been linked to any teams. His knee injury and the still ongoing rehabilitation process are probably the reasons why. Once the guard is medically cleared, could he return to the team that signed him as an undrafted rookie in 2008? It is certainly possible given that the interior offensive line struggled without the veteran in 2015.

However, New England, while unexperienced, is also deep at the guard position. Second-year players Shaq Mason and Tre Jackson project to fight for starting roles, as do veteran and 2015 part-time starter Josh Kline and recently acquired former top-10 draft pick Jonathan Cooper. While they lack the experience of Wendell, they offer depth, athleticism and versatility on the inside.

Wendell also offers some of those traits but, as of right now, it is hard to see him take a roster spot from one of the four players listed above.

That doesn't mean that he shouldn't be re-signed, though. After all, there can never be enough depth, competition and leadership on the team. Even if he returns just for the offseason workout program, signing Wendell to a veteran-minimum deal (given he doesn't sign for more money somewhere else) would give Dante Scarnecchia one more piece to work with – and one more tool to potentially fix the interior offensive line with.