D-line could turn out to be top need

When assessing the Patriots' needs as they work toward improving their roster, one area that could be shooting to the top of the list is defensive line. While much attention has been paid to Vince Wilfork's contract situation, the team has another starter who has reached the end of his deal -- Jarvis Green.

Green, an eight-year veteran, is committed to testing free agency March 5.

With Green set to hit the market, and what appears to be a contentious situation ahead with Wilfork, the Patriots figure to be taking an extra-close look at defensive linemen in this year's draft and, to a lesser degree, in free agency.

Here is a snapshot look at the defensive linemen under contract for 2010 (which assumes a Wilfork franchise tag and no-show and Green winding up elsewhere):

Ron Brace -- Second-round draft choice out of Boston College in 2009 only played in approximately 50 snaps as a rookie. Coaches have worked closely with him on footwork. His development will be crucial as he was projected as a nose tackle of the future.

Myron Pryor -- Sixth-round draft choice out of Kentucky in 2009 had a surprise emergence. He jumped ahead of Brace on the depth chart at nose tackle and regularly played as an interior rusher in sub packages. Still a question of whether he is a fit for the two-gap style as he seems to be more of a one-gapper.

Darryl Richard -- Seventh-round draft choice out of Georgia Tech in 2009 spent his rookie season on the practice squad. He showed loyalty to the Patriots by passing up the chance to join the Browns' active roster, and he'll look to make a jump onto the 53-man roster this year.

Ty Warren -- The eight-year veteran is a strong presence at left defensive end and one of the team's most consistent linemen. He doesn't put up big stats but draws respect in NFL circles for his technique, toughness and power.

Mike Wright -- Entering his sixth season, Wright thrived in 2009 in the "super sub" role previously filled by Green. He provides some good interior pass rush in sub packages and has proven to be a capable fill-in when injuries strike.