Sixth in a multipart Patriots series on free-agent fits at various positions leading into the start of free agency March 10.
Players under contract for 2015 (year contract ends): Chris Barker (2015), Jordan Devey (2015), Caylin Hauptmann (2015), Josh Kline (2015), Bryan Stork (2017), Ryan Wendell (2015)
Level of need: Moderate to high
Projected top targets: Dan Connolly (Patriots)
Why Connolly fits: Elevated to captain in 2014 for the first time as a Patriot, he provided a steadying presence on the offensive line when moved to left guard, which in turn had a positive effect on Stork in his rookie season at center and also Solder at left tackle. He is athletic, intelligent and effective at times when asked to pull, which is something the Patriots generally like their guards to do. Connolly turns 33 in September and is an obvious fit based on his history with the team since 2007.
Other names of note: Justin Blalock (Falcons), Clint Boling (Bengals), James Carpenter (Seahawks), Orlando Franklin (Broncos), Todd Herremans (Eagles), Rodney Hudson (Chiefs), Mike Iupati (49ers), Chris Myers (Texans), Stefen Wisniewski (Raiders).
Market conditions: Arguably one of the strongest positions in free agency; the pure centers (Hudson, Wisniewski) are expected to be signed rather quickly. While there are no surefire first-rounders in the draft, the interior offensive line crop is still viewed as solid by media analysts.
Interior offensive line-based questions: Will the Patriots stick with Wendell at right guard after he was the third or fourth option at the position to begin 2014? Do any of the younger developmental blockers in the pipeline -- Barker, Devey, Hauptmann and Kline -- elevate to larger roles?