Fullback James Develin is part of Patriots' free-agent plans

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As one would expect, the New England Patriots have interest in bringing fullback James Develin back into the fold for 2016, but the question is how they do so.

To start, Develin has fully recovered from a broken right tibia sustained in a preseason game on Aug. 28. That has been the case for more than a month.

So now it’s a matter of finances, with Develin a restricted free agent. The Patriots could tender Develin at the lowest level, which would be $1.6 million on a one-year term and ensure his return.

At this time, that would make Develin the sixth-highest paid fullback in the NFL based on average salary per season. The position generally isn’t a big-bucks spot, with Oakland’s Marcel Reece setting the ceiling at an average of $3.6 million per season, and then it drops to $2.3 million with Buffalo’s Jerome Felton.

If the Patriots view the $1.6 million figure as a reflection of fair market value for Develin, things will come together quickly.

If they don’t, and my hunch is that they won’t, things would then shift toward a Brandon Bolden-type situation. In January 2015, as Bolden was prepared to enter an offseason in which he was a restricted free agent, he and the Patriots agreed to a two-year, $2.32 million contract extension.

The Develin situation is a reflection of some of the business and the discussions the team can possibly pursue at this week’s NFL combine. This is the one time on the NFL calendar when agents and key NFL decision-makers are in the same location and can get down to business.

I have Develin ranked No. 6 on the team's free-agent list.