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Pats follow contract plan with Connolly

Continuing to focus on the mid-level in the team-building process, the Patriots signed their sixth different player to a contract extension by inking center/guard Dan Connolly to a new deal through 2011. The deal with Connolly was finalized Dec. 17.

The Patriots previously extended the contracts of linebackers Rob Ninkovich (2011) and Eric Alexander (2010), offensive linemen Nick Kaczur (2012) and Mark LeVoir (2011), and receiver Sam Aiken (2011). None of those deals were blockbusters, as the strategy seems to be focusing on deals that don't put the team at significant risk with the league's uncertain labor forecast.

Connolly receives a $325,000 signing bonus as part of the new deal. His base salary will be $600,000 in 2010 and $725,000 in 2011. The deal includes workout bonuses of $50,000 in 2010 and 2011.

With starting right guard Stephen Neal entering the final year of his contract, Connolly is a potential replacement. Connolly has started the last three games in place of Neal and also has experience at center.