New England Patriots: Mike Gillislee faces an uphill battle
Are Mike Gillislee’s days with New England Patriots numbered?
Running back Mike Gillislee had three touchdowns in the New England Patriots’ 2017 season opener. This year, he may not even make their Week 1 roster.
The Patriots paid close attention to the running back position this offseason, adding former-Bengal Jeremy Hill in free agency, re-signing Rex Burkhead, and taking Georgia’s Sony Michel in the first round of the 2018 draft.
The influx of running backs left New England with a deep group to choose from and put Gillislee’s roster status in question.
Gillislee joined the Patriots as a restricted free agent from Buffalo, last offseason, and finished 2017 with 104 carries for 383 yards and five touchdowns. The 27-year old quickly emerged as the team’s goal-line back and punched in four touchdowns in his first two games. Gillislee’s production declined as the season continued and he was ultimately made inactive for six of the Patriots’ seven final regular season games, along with the entire postseason.
The Patriots entered Thursday’s preseason opener with seven running backs on their roster: Burkhead, Michel, Gillislee, Hill, James White, Brandon Bolden, and undrafted rookie free agent Ralph Webb. Following the game, Gillislee’s roster status was put further in question.
He finished the night with 43 yards rushing on 14 carries but was overshadowed by Hill and Webb. Hill posted 51 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown while Webb added 46 yards on 14 carries, two touchdowns, and a pair of two-point conversions.
New England is expected to keep four running backs on its roster, including Burkhead, White, Michel, and either Gillislee, Hill, Bolden, or Webb. There are still three preseason games left to determine which backs will earn a roster spot but from a salary cap perspective, it seems most likely that Gillislee will be cut.
According to Spotrac, Gillislee will carry a $2.18-million cap hit in 2018, while Hill carries a cap hit of $1.33-million. Gillislee is the only back on the Patriots’ roster without guaranteed money left on his deal and he won’t have any dead money counting against the Patriots’ salary cap if he’s cut. In contrast, Hill carries $150,000 in 2018 dead cap value which would count against New England’s cap if he were cut. From a financial standpoint, this helps Hill’s odds at making the team far more than it does Gillislee’s.
The Patriots could also consider trading Gillislee if they don’t believe he will make the team. As the preseason moves along, injuries are bound to add up and potential trade partners will emerge.
There are just under three weeks to go until roster cutdown day and there’s still plenty of football to be played. As of right now, though, Mike Gillislee faces an uphill battle to make the Patriots roster.