On Thursday, it was announced that the Eagles had extended the contract of running back LeSean McCoy, a second-round choice from the 2009 NFL draft. The move shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as McCoy was entering the final season of his rookie contract and has established himself as a top running back.
It also serves as a reminder that many others from his draft class, including five Patriots, enter a contract year in 2012.
Looking strictly at 2009 draft picks on the roster, here’s an assessment of which Patriots could be in line for an extension of their own prior to entering free agency next offseason:
The Patriots drafted the relatively unknown giant offensive tackle in the second round, and when healthy, he has been a productive player. With Nate Solder presumably moving to the left side, it gives the Patriots a towering pair of bookend tackles, but Vollmer must prove he is fully healed from a back injury that affected him in 2011. Based on his previous play, he projects as a player New England would want to keep around for the future, although the team has some potential tackle insurance in second-year player Marcus Cannon. With Vollmer's unique frame and skill set, a new deal would make sense for both sides if Vollmer is healthy.
Like Vollmer, Chung (second-rounder) dealt with injury issues during 2011. He also has been a productive member of the draft class, and is probably the team’s top safety. He was at his best in 2010, showcasing an ability to both defend the pass and affect the running game, totaling 96 tackles and 3 interceptions. At just 24 years old, Chung has plenty of good football in front of him. The secondary was an area of weakness for New England in 2011, and the team may see Chung as a stabilizing force for next year and beyond. He too would seem a worthy candidate for an extended contract.
Edelman was an off-the-radar pickup in the seventh round in 2009, and has evolved from a college quarterback into a slot receiver/cornerback and special teams contributor. He personifies the type of player many associate with a Bill Belichick-led team. This season will be an interesting one for Edelman, as he’s one of 12 receivers already on the roster, and no longer the only true reserve slot receiver behind Wes Welker. Edelman, Anthony Gonzalez and Jeremy Ebert all figure to vie for a spot in the slot, and should the Patriots and Welker part ways after 2012, one of those three could fill that role. Edelman remains valuable as a three-phase player, but the big question could be if the team sees him as a long-term option as a receiver. That could lead to an extension or new deal after the season.
After playing in 13 games as a rookie out of Kentucky in 2009, the sixth-round pick looked like another defensive building block for the Patriots. He totaled 20 tackles and gave a consistent effort on the interior. But Pryor has managed just 11 games played and 13 tackles in two seasons since. With a number of defensive linemen already on the roster, Pryor is not a roster lock entering training camp. Unless he steps up and finds himself in a primary defensive tackle rotation role next year, he doesn’t figure to be a top candidate to receive an extension.
Brace was yet another second-round pick from the 2009 class, but has not transitioned to the NFL like some expected. He’s played in just 29 career games and has 35 tackles, no sacks and a single forced fumble. He’s a big body (6-3, 330) who could become an effective run-stuffer, but needs to develop more consistency to see the field. Vince Wilfork remains the team’s interior defensive anchor, while Kyle Love has developed into a dependable first- and second-down player as well. If Brace is unable to find the field more in 2012, it seems unlikely that the team would make a push to hand him over an extension.