New England Patriots: 15 best free agent acquisitions of all-time

Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) /
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Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots
Rex Burkhead, New England Patriots. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

47. . RB. (2017-Present). Rex Burkhead. 14. player

  • Super Bowl champion (LIII)
  • 4.0 yards per rush career average
  • 78 career receptions
  • 13 career all-purpose touchdowns

Antowain Smith and Rex Burkhead may as well be bookends when it comes to free agent running back signings during the Patriots’ modern-day dynasty. Smith helped the team establish itself as a true-blue NFL powerhouse at the turn of the millennium. Today, Burkhead carries on his legacy.

Marvin Lewis’ Cincinnati Bengals drafted Burkhead in 2013, but over the span of four seasons in the Queen City, the stocky back out of Nebraska never really got to see much action.

Lost on the depth chart behind Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill (the latter of which somewhat ironically ended up behind Burkhead on the Patriots’ depth chart last summer), Burkhead was given all of 87 attempts and 45 targets while with the Bengals.

Then in March 2017, he signed a one-year contract with the Patriots. In just 10 games that season, Burkhead was gifted 64 rushing attempts and 36 targets. He made the most of his increased opportunities, too. Burkhead racked up 518 all-purpose yards and eight total touchdowns, five on the ground and three through the air.

For his efforts, he was granted a three-year contract extension in March of last year. Despite splitting time with Sony Michel and James White – and missing half the season with a neck injury – Burkhead was still given more work than he ever had in Cincinnati. He finished the 2018 season with 317 all-purpose yards on 57 rushing attempts and 20 targets.

If you’re doing the math at home, you should have realized by now that Burkhead had 87 rush attempts and 45 targets over four seasons with the Bengals. In half that time with the Patriots, he’s already had 121 rush attempts and 56 targets.

Continuing on with the number-crunching, Burkhead had 663 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns while with Cincinnati. Since coming to New England, he’s had 835 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns.

And that’s only counting the regular season. If you include the playoffs, Burkhead has another 210 all-purpose yards and an additional three touchdowns, two of which came against the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship Game.

He adds an element of unpredictability with his dual skill sets as both a runner and as a receiver. Burkhead is just the kind of multidimensional weapon that Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels love to have out on the field.