FOXBOROUGH - We've reported previously that the Patriots entered the offseason prepared to move on without center Dan Koppen and left tackle Matt Light, with retirement likely for the latter.
Koppen is still a free agent after the Patriots signed Dan Connolly to starter's money at center, and owner Robert Kraft said nothing today to dissuade the thinking that Light is likely to retire at some point.
Kraft, following a Patriots Charitable Foundation event celebrating Camp Sunshine in Maine, became a little emotional when asked about prospect of moving forward without long-time Patriots in Light and Koppen.
"Well, (if) Matt Light decides to retire…he’s somebody who’s been with us the whole time," Kraft said. "He’s been such an outstanding person both on and off the field.
"I truly hope that Deion Branch remains with the team. He’s also been one of my favorite guys. I was sorry to see him leave, and I hope Dan Koppen winds up on the team as well."
Branch later re-signed with the Patriots on a one-year contract.
"It's truly an honor and a blessing to be back with Patriots next year," Branch posted on Twitter. "Can't wait to get back in the swing of things."
Kraft was asked whether Light has informed him of his decision.
"I don’t want to speak for him ... has there been no public announcements?" Kraft asked.
When told there hasn't been, Kraft said, "I think you ought to speak to Matt."
It wasn't so much what Kraft said, but the way he said it.
If Light retires, the Patriots will recoup about $5 million salary-cap space.
Light's agent, Ben Dogra, hasn't commented on Light's plans.
Kraft also talked about other topics:
On Peyton Manning being with the Broncos: “I know that CBS is happy that he’s in the AFC. But we’re playing him here, we’re not playing in that in Denver, so that’s always good. I think it’s great for football that we have the rivalry back with Tommy and Peyton. I still think we have the best quarterback in football though. I like our position.”
On Tim Tebow being traded to the Jets: “I personally like Tim Tebow a lot. I love that he’s into spirituality, it’s something that I and my family feel strongly about. He’s a great young man and I have great affection for him as well.”
On the bounty penalties handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell: “I think he had unique knowledge that none of us had. His job is to protect the shield, and look at the long-term best interests of the game. I think that’s what he did there. What I like about it is I know that he’s looking out for what’s best for the game long-term and the health and welfare of our players. I know my grandsons play Pop Warner, another grandson plays high school football. It’s good that they know that their role models have certain standards, and all of us in society really have to conduct ourselves a certain way. I think he, having the knowledge he had, sent a strong message and I have confidence in his judgment and whatever he decides is in the best interest of the game. …I have a lot of confidence that Roger Goodell is doing that all the time.”
On Tom Brady agreeing to restructure his contract: “I think we’re blessed to have the No. 1 quarterback in the NFL, but lets also remember that when he restructures his deal, he’s getting a bundle of cash up front. But it is helping us create cap room and it’s something that I think is a win-win all around. I think we brought in some interesting players here that hopefully can help us be a better team and let us try to do some things that we couldn’t do as well last year.
On if he’s excited about any of the additions: “I always liked Donte Stallworth. I’m happy he’s coming back. We have so many new young men that we don’t know. What I learned in the early years was I used to get really excited in the offseason. I think probably most owners think the moves in the offseason are going all the way. And sometimes, realities set in and things aren’t always the way you think they are when you’re signing these players. So I’m going to wait and see what happens.
But I do think we’ve really improved our team and I really believe that. I think Tommy receiving a little wad of cash up front also helped us.
On if fans should expect a big move, a trade or signing, with the cap space: “Remember, we’re in the business of quality depth management. And it’s a physical game and you have injuries and you need depth on your team. I think we’re starting to develop depth on the team. We’re doing a lot of homework in the draft, and I think leading up to the draft I think we’re going to have a very interesting offseason continue to develop. We’ve had some great moves already and it will continue to happen. I like our position that we’re in the draft with two 1s and two 2s. The homework that we’ve done and depth that we’re starting to develop. WE have flexibility. That’s the key in this game because no one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, who will be on the market, what opportunities will be there. We’re in a position of flexibility.
On if there’s been progress with Wes Welker: “He’s on the team. That’s the progress.” (On a new contract) I have no comment. I’m not involved in that. You know how I feel about Wes.”