Donald Thomas of Patriots expected to test free agency

One Patriot who has flown under the radar with NFL free agency set to begin on Tuesday is offensive lineman Donald Thomas.

A league source said on Wednesday that the Patriots have shown interest in re-signing Thomas, but it is “fully expected” that he will test the market.

The 27-year-old Thomas, who is a Connecticut native, played in all 16 regular-season games as well as New England’s two playoff games last season. He started seven games, all but one at left guard.

With Logan Mankins missing time because of leg injuries, Thomas stepped up in his absence and played well, particularly since Thomas said previously he didn’t much like being at left guard.

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His performance likely has teams looking at him as a starter, and thus he’ll garner starter’s money. New England has a good amount of money tied up in Mankins and Dan Connolly, and if Thomas would continue to be a backup with the team the Patriots would want to pay him that way.

Since his New Haven high school didn’t offer the sport, Thomas did not play football until he arrived at the University of Connecticut, and in a short time worked his way from scout-team defensive lineman to All-Big East guard, and then a sixth-round draft pick of the Dolphins.

After 17 games and 13 starts over two seasons in Miami, Thomas was cut out of training camp in 2010; a stint with Detroit followed, and he was signed by the Patriots at the start of the 2011 season.

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