Rex Burkhead has been one of the best players on the Patriots in 2020.
Continuity is going to be an important factor for the success of the 2021 New England Patriots, and with all of the cap space Bill Belichick has at his disposal, he should be doing his best to keep the team’s “glue” players around.
And that got us thinking … is Rex Burkhead one of those guys? Is he deserving of a contract extension at this very moment? It’s a really tough situation to diagnose because we’re talking about the Patriots here, and Burkhead isn’t exactly a “commodity” on the surface. He’s a 30-year-old third-down back. What’s the market for that?
Well, if you’ve been watching the Patriots this year, he’s much more than that. He provides an invaluable change of pace, he runs extremely hard despite his size, he fights for extra yardage every opportunity he gets, and he’s got sure hands out of the backfield.
And what a first half it’s been for Burkhead, who’s done a little bit of everything. He’s got two rushes for 11 yards (one was a big third-down conversion) and three receptions for 34 yards and two scores. Burkhead’s contributions speak for themselves when you’re actually watching him play. The box score won’t tell you anything you need to know most of the time, though tonight is a different story.
For the season, Burkhead has averaged 4.1 yards per carry (59 rushes for 246 yards) and 8.45 yards per reception (22 catches for 186 yards). His scores on Sunday night against the Ravens gave him six total touchdowns on the year, which is pretty damn good when you look at the overall poor body of work of the Patriots’ offense.
With Sony Michel very clearly being phased out and Damien Harris taking over as the lead back, why not bring back Burkhead and keep the backfield intact? Remember, the former Bengal did the Patriots a favor this offseason when he restructured his contract, took a pay cut, and created some cap space for the front office.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Patriots fan out there who dislikes Burkhead. He’s like James White Jr. but with a little bit more power. If New England is going to keep Cam Newton around or bring in a rookie quarterback, Burkhead would be a good veteran presence to have because of his knowledge of the offense and crafty play.
Also, this would barely cost the Patriots anything. The backfield is one of the team’s biggest strengths this year, so that unit remaining steady, especially since next season looks like it’ll be Michel’s last in New England, is probably a prudent idea.