Patriots reward center Koppen with five-year extension

The New England Patriots on Thursday afternoon used some of their salary cap surplus for this season to secure a key offensive player for the long term, reaching agreement with starting center Dan Koppen on a five-year contract extension.

The extension is worth between $19 million and $20 million and includes about $7.5 million in bonuses.

Koppen, 27, was in the final season of the original four-year contract he signed as a rookie in 2003, and scheduled to earn a 2006 base salary of $1.573 million. He would have been eligible for unrestricted free agency next spring without the extension.

A fifth-round choice in the 2003 draft, and the 164th player selected that year, Koppen earned a starting spot as a rookie, helping the team advance to Super Bowl XXXVIII. He ranked in the top 10 among rookies that year in terms of playing time and was among the league leaders in the performance-based-pay program that the NFL instituted to reward lower-salaried players who outperform their contracts.

Koppen had a string of 46 consecutive starts, including playoff games, until a shoulder injury ended his 2005 season after nine games.

There were concerns about lingering problems with Koppen's shoulder this spring, during minicamps, but he worked hard to complete his rehabilitation and has started all five games this season.

The former Boston College standout, who possesses the kind of lunch-pail mentality that offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia covets in his charges, is a tough in-line blocker who has steadily improved as a pass protector. From the outset, he demonstrated great football awareness, and was able to step in during his rookie season and make all the calls on blocking adjustments.

For his career, Koppen has appeared in 46 regular-season games, and started in all but one of them.